Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends

Brandeis Celebrates the Life of Lois Foster, An Inspiring and Tireless Supporter of the Rose Art Museum

April 29, 2021

A passionate collector of modern and contemporary art, and beloved member of the Board of Advisors of the Rose Art Museum from 1993-2020, Lois Foster passed away on April 14th at the age of 92. Her unsurpassable devotion to the museum, her inspiring legacy, and her rich impact on the Rose are very much alive.

  • Lois Foster (center) smiling with Roy Dawes at The Rose Art Museum
    Lois Foster (right) with Associate Director of  Facilities and Chief Preparator of the Rose Art Museum, Roy Dawes, was a tireless champion of the Rose.

    Photo Credit: Mike Lovett

  • Contemporary art paintings on display at the Lois Foster gallery at The Rose Art Museum
    The interior of the Lois Foster Gallery at the Rose Art Museum.

    Photo Credit: Mike Lovett

Foster's visionary leadership, energetic advocacy, and extraordinary generosity transformed the Rose Art Museum and brought cutting-edge art into the lives of countless individuals. She was an extraordinary volunteer, who established and chaired the Rose Friends and Patrons Membership Program in 1977, a program that grew to nearly 300 members.

To ensure the stability and longevity of the museum, she and her beloved husband Hank endowed the position of Director of the Museum. In 1979 she was named a Fellow of Brandeis University, a select group of alumni and friends valued for their generosity, professional counsel, and ambassadorial efforts on the University’s behalf. 

“Lois Foster leaves a powerful legacy at Brandeis, where a wing of her beloved Rose Art Museum bears her name. An enthusiastic and tireless patron of modern and contemporary art and a Fellow of the University, in her decades on the Rose board she was a mentor and an inspiration. The generosity of Lois and her husband Hank lives on at Brandeis, at the Rose and beyond.” -Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz

Knowing his wife’s profound love for the museum, Hank presented her with a gift, the grand Lois Foster Wing, a beautiful new exhibition space, designed by renowned architect Graham Gund and inaugurated in 2001. The wing’s dedication marked a major milestone for the museum, providing a stunning new space for the exhibition of cutting-edge rotating exhibitions as well as stellar shows of the Rose Art Museum’s iconic permanent collection. 

“The Rose would not be the museum it is today had it not been for Lois Foster, her visionary leadership, and her  profound dedication to our beloved museum,” said Gannit Ankori, the Henry and Lois Foster Director and Chief Curator of the Rose Art Museum. “Her radiant presence is with me every day, as I carry her name in my title with pride and joy. As we install our 60th anniversary exhibitions in the Lois Foster Wing we continue to be inspired by this extraordinary woman.”

Art Expert, Mentor and Influential Patron

Foster attended Emerson College after graduating from Brookline High School and began a lifelong partnership with her husband in arts philanthropy. Hank was a chair of the University’s Board of Trustees and the dynamic pair were among the University’s most generous benefactors. Lois was known throughout Boston as a valued mentor, expert, and influential supporter of contemporary art. Hank, who passed away in 2008, was a former veterinarian who was founder and CEO of Charles River Laboratories, a medical and scientific research company.

Lizbeth Krupp, chair of the Rose Board of Advisors, remembers Lois Foster as a “glamorous, sweet-natured and very persuasive” woman who left “a lasting and extraordinary imprint on the cultural arts of Boston, and especially at the Rose.” 

Married 60 years, the couple had a long reach in their passionate support of visual arts, with their generosity extending from Greater Boston to Palm Beach, Florida, where they maintained a second home. A gift from the Fosters created the first professorship at Emerson College specifically for Contemporary Art Theory and Practice. Lois was subsequently awarded an Honorary Degree from Emerson. They also endowed the first Gallery for Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where Hank served as Chair of the Board. Lois served on the MFA’s Visiting Committee for Contemporary Art and was also a trustee of Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art. The couple also endowed a Contemporary Exhibitions fund at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach.

Lois Foster “was a lady with a capital ‘L’,” said Betsy Sarason Pfau ’74, a longtime Rose board member whose mother-in-law was one of Foster’s closest friends. Pfau recalled first seeing the Fosters’ impressive art collection at Lois’s invitation 32 years ago. “She was so gracious in showing us every piece of artwork and explaining it to us, making note of what we liked that was in our price range,” said Pfau. “I still have her note with suggestions of artists we might want to consider; we bought two of the five that she suggested that night.” It was Foster who encouraged Pfau to get involved with the Rose. “She sent me one of those handwritten notes and invited me to attend a  Rose lecture,” recalled Pfau. “I became more and more involved, going to every lecture and every lunch, and was invited to join committees. I have been on the museum’s board 23 years, and it’s all because Lois wrote a note.” Foster was known for such personal touches, taking the time to write thousands of thank-you notes to those who made a contribution to the Rose.

Notwithstanding her star power, Lois was known for her warmth, kindness, and selflessness. She lit up a room with her marvelous smile and her great sense of humor.

A Far-reaching Legacy

The Fosters’ legacy at Brandeis extends beyond the Rose. They founded the Lois and Henry L. Foster Biomedical Research Laboratories and supported many students, in particular, Joseph and Clara Friedman Scholars, in memory of Hank’s father and mother, and the Foster Labs Student Fellows. The Fosters became Sachar Legacy Society members in 1981. As proud Brandeis parents to son John Scott Foster ’75, who continues his mother’s work at the Rose, they gave to the Parents Fund and for three decades donated to the Brandeis Fund. The Fosters were active leaders of the Brandeis alumni and friends community in Palm Beach.

In addition to contemporary art, the Fosters’ philanthropy funded a hospital for small animals and a professorship at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

Lois Foster is survived by her sons, James (Audrey) of Boston and Palm Beach, John of Boston and Palm Beach, Neal (Nancy) of Weston, MA; grandchildren, Alex (Claire), Zach (Janie), Lindsay, Lauren, Daniel (Emily); and four great-granddaughters.

Featured Event

Roxana Robinson and Nancy Scott

Explore the life and legacy of iconic artist Georgia O’Keeffe with Roxana Robinson, author of the definitive biography, “Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life,” and Nancy Scott, O’Keeffe scholar and professor of fine arts at Brandeis. Robinson and Scott will discuss O’Keeffe’s early paintings and the significance of her life-long friendship with political scientist Arthur Macmahon. Moderated by Elizabeth Cayouette-Gluckman ’19. Wednesday, May 19, 2021, 12 PM ET  Register Now