News Release: Oct. 22, 2002
Quiet and courageous leader honored with building
|Dr. Luther H. Foster
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LUTHER H. FOSTER HALL HOUSES ONE OF TUSKEGEE’S LARGEST COLLEGES
TUSKEGEE UNIVERSITY, AL—(October 22, 2002)—Tuskegee University honored its fourth President Oct. 19 by naming a major campus building in his honor.
Luther H. Foster Hall, formerly referred to as the Engineering Building, reveres Dr. Luther Hilton Foster’s “quiet and courageous leadership” during his tenure as Tuskegee President from 1953 to 1981.
“Luther H. Foster supported change, envisaged change and courageously stood behind the consequences of action that made for positive change in our society,” explained current Tuskegee University President, Dr. Benjamin F. Payton, during the ceremony.
The naming of Foster Hall coincided with the annual fall meeting of the Tuskegee University Board of Trustees. Several members were on hand for the unveiling, including Board Chairman, Dr. Andrew F. Brimmer.
“This building is a dedication to Foster’s educational commitment,” said Brimmer, who became a member of the Board during Foster’s administration.
Brimmer remembers Foster’s words of wisdom during their first meeting: “From the very beginning (of Tuskegee) the emphasis was on education, agriculture and industrial arts. Industrial arts is today engineering. At Tuskegee, I am devoting much of my time and effort...to engineering. I am helping and working hard to build a curriculum, to expand it and to increase its contribution to the education of (African-Americans).”
“I, too, was particularly impressed with Dr. Foster,” Payton said of his first meeting with him. “He brought a quiet kind of confidence that was so eloquent merely in the way he carried himself and talked. He let his quiet words spoke for themselves and for his actions.”
Constructed in 1970—one of several structures completed during Foster’s administration—Foster Hall boasts more than 80,000 square feet and has four levels. It is one of the largest academic facilities on campus, complete with state-of-the art computer labs and climate-controlled classrooms.
It is the primary facility of the College of Engineering, Architecture and Physical Sciences, the largest of Tuskegee’s five colleges.
In addition to the Dean’s offices, Foster Hall houses the Physics Department and the Departments of Chemical, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering. The Departments of Aerospace Science Engineering, Architecture and Construction Science and Management are located in other on-campus buildings.
During his address, Payton also alluded to Foster’s leadership through the transformational years of the Civil Rights Movement and his respect of the leaders and participants of the Movement.
Tuskegee was blatantly and illegally drawn out of the political process in 1960, Payton explained. Former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Education, Dr. Charles G. Gomillion, was president of the Tuskegee Civic Association and was lead plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court Gomillion v. Lightfoot decision outlawing gerrymandering.
Payton praised Foster for honoring Gomillion’s efforts rather than “immediately and peremptorily” terminating his employment as was commonplace at other institutions.
“Even when the state legislature refused to make an appropriation one year because our students were demonstrating,” Payton added, “Luther Foster stood quietly and courageously behind our students and behind our Board.”
His only regret, Payton said, was that Foster and his family were unable to live to see the building housing the programs he caused to flourish, named in his honor. Foster’s wife of many years, Vera, and daughter Adrienne, are both deceased. Foster’s son, Luther, of Richmond, Va., who was unable to attend the dedication, is left to cherish his father’s memory.
Foster’s legacy lives on, too, in the hearts and minds of graduates and aspiring graduates of Tuskegee’s engineering programs.
According to the June 20, 2002, edition of Black Issues in Higher Education, for example, Tuskegee University is the seventh largest producer of Black engineers in the country. Both the baccalaureate aerospace science engineering and professional material science engineering degrees are one of their kind among Historically Black Colleges and Universities.