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Julian F.S. Foster, 75, Professor

July 31, 2002|DAVID HALDANE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Julian Francis Sherwood Foster, who taught political science at Cal State Fullerton for 31 years and became a well-known champion of liberal and academic causes, was eulogized at a memorial service Sunday, one day after what would have been his 76th birthday.

Foster died early last week after suffering an apparent heart attack and falling into the swimming pool at his Santa Ana home.

"He was a very eloquent speaker who students thought was one of the best teachers at the university," said Beatrice Foster, his wife of 45 years. "He was humorous and kept his friendships for a very long time. People cared about him because they knew he cared about them."

Born in London on July 27, 1926, Foster attended Oxford University before immigrating to the United States in 1957. Six years later he earned his doctorate from UCLA, the same year he accepted a teaching position at Cal State Fullerton.

Three times chairman of the university's Academic Senate (1966-67, 1986-87 and 1987-88) as well as head of its political science department from 1978-84, Foster quickly became active in issues involving academic integrity and local politics. He successfully pressed for an investigation into one department's plan to teach profitable, though academically questionable, courses for another university--a probe that eventually led to the demotion of two professors and resignation of a dean.

In the 1960s, he lobbied successfully for a controversial program enabling students to evaluate their teachers, a process later used to help determine which professors were promoted. And in the late 1980s, he chaired a committee investigating turmoil in the university's accounting department.

Foster also became an outspoken advocate for civil rights and opponent of the ultra right-wing John Birch Society, which he parodied in a 1964 book called "None Dare Call It Reason."

"He was out to show that calling Eisenhower and Shirley Temple communists was a bit much," his widow recalled. "We used to get bomb threats [regularly]."

In addition, he wrote or edited several textbooks on politics and student activism, and published a weekly political journal in 1965-66.

Foster's teaching career was blemished in 1994 when an African American student sued him for allegedly administering a spanking with a ruler in exchange for permission to drop a course the student was failing. The professor later apologized, characterizing the incident as a nonracial "joke" that had gone too far. But he and the university settled the lawsuit for $35,000 and Foster never taught there again.

Instead, his widow said, he retired to a life that included working as a volunteer mediator and pursuing his twin loves of racquetball and bridge. "He loved being among people," she said.

In addition to his wife, Foster is survived by son Hugh Foster, 35, an Orange County photographer; and daughters Fiona Foster, 29, a movie production coordinator in New Zealand, and Jennifer Foster, 27, a student at Cal State Fullerton.

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