Foster–ing success

Special assistant to the President turned ‘chief of staff’ Angelique Foster rewarded with President’s Medal

Mark Kennedy and Angelique Foster

UND President Mark Kennedy presents his special assistant and “chief of staff” Angelique Foster with a President’s Medal, one of the highest honors the president can bestow. Foster, who will be leaving the University in May, was instrumental in the successful implementation of the One UND Strategic Plan. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

They’ve been a strong and successful team for the past seven years.

But all things eventually do come to an end.

Before Angelique Foster leaves her position as special assistant to UND President Mark Kennedy in May, Kennedy seized a moment Wednesday to honor her with the highest non-academic-specific University honor he can bestow — the President’s Medal.

Following a special celebration honoring those responsible for making UND’s new strategic plan a success, Kennedy presented the medal to Foster, who, for nearly three years from an adjacent UND office, and four years before that at Kennedy’s previous stop at George Washington University, has kept the current UND CEO on time and on task.

It was a perfect moment for such an honor because, as much as anyone, Foster, as the strategic plan implementation lead, was instrumental for the success of the One UND plan. She regularly convened and advised the project managers for each of the seven goals that comprise the strategic plan. Kennedy called her “a project manager for the project managers,” and overall, he said, during her time at UND, she evolved into more of a chief of staff for the University and his office.

Kennedy and Foster had previously teamed up to launch and implement another successful five-year strategic plan when Kennedy was a professor and director at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management.

“We are really going to miss her,” Kennedy said. “Her level of skill and devotion to the University is difficult to find in a person.”

Angelique Foster and Debbie Kennedy

Angelique Foster and UND First Lady Debbie Kennedy share a moment after Foster received a rare and special President’s Medal for her work and devotion to the University over the past nearly three years. Foster has spent the past seven years working for and with UND President Mark Kennedy and Debbie Kennedy, dating back to the president’s former role as professor and director of the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management in Washington, D.C. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

Emotional surprise

Foster, who received rousing applause from an audience of UND colleagues and friends of the University, was emotional upon receiving the special medal.

“I was truly surprised; I even teared up a little,” Foster said afterward. “I don’t think that I am really deserving of it. I just did the work that I was expected to do — that’s how I was brought up.”

Showing her modesty, Foster turned the attention to others.

“I think everyone in this room should get a medal,” she said.

Foster’s name now will be engraved on a plaque in the President’s Office, alongside other past medal winners.

Foster announced in early October that she will be leaving her current position after the spring semester to be closer to family.

“Before moving here, I committed to three years of working with President and Mrs. Kennedy,” Foster said. “I love what I do, but my family is so far away, and I would like to be closer to them.”

Foster, who holds a BFA in theatre and an MFA in stage management from the University of CA – Irvine, compared the job to that of a stage manager.

“This person will make the wheels turn and make the audience believe those wheels are turning themselves,” Foster once told UND Today. “If you want to be a part of things from start to conclusion, are self-motivated, eager to learn and like to always have something going on, this is the position for you.”

Foster first began working for Kennedy in 2012 at George Washington University. When he was named UND’s 12th president, he asked her to be his executive assistant. She joined UND on July 1, 2016.

The President’s Medal

Kennedy last presented the President’s Medal to Dave Molmen, of Altru Health System, for his work in helping UND secure funding for its new School of Medicine & Health Sciences building.

The President’s Medal has been bestowed only about 30 times since 1974, spanning five University presidents.

The actual medal was designed by sculptor Avard Fairbanks, and embodies the concept of “An Invitation to Learning.” Fairbanks served as sculptor-in-residence at UND in 1966 and earlier created the iconic pioneer family monument that stands today on the State Capitol grounds in Bismarck.

The obverse of the medal bears a head-and-shoulders rendering of Alma Mater, circled by the phrase “An Invitation to Learning” with an additional inscription that reads “Seek knowledge, gain wisdom, and render love for humanity through greater service.” The reverse carries an image of three anonymous people (two males and a female), eyes fixed forward toward a torch, with a heading that reads “University of North Dakota,” circling the top.

Others who have received the honor include Edwin James, former medical school dean; LeRoy Sondrol, former director of plant services, Don Piper, professor emeritus of the College of Education & Human Development; Bob Boyd, former UND vice president for student affairs; Pat Bohnet, former executive assistant to the UND president; Alice Brekke, former vice president for finance and operations; and Laurie Betting, former UND Vice President for Student Affairs.

Current UND employees who have received the award: Tom DiLorenzo, Joshua Wynne, Peter Johnson and Dana Harsell.