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02/07/94

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Foster gives $10 million to renovate Stanford Stadium

STANFORD -- Los Angeles insurance executive Louis W. Foster has pledged $10 million to renovate Stanford Stadium, the Stanford Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation has announced.

The pledge constitutes the largest cash gift ever received by the Athletic Department.

Foster, a 1935 graduate of the university, and his wife, Gladyce, formally made the pledge in January. Part of the Athletics Department's $34-million "Campaign 2000," the stadium renovation will upgrade circulation and safety features of the 72-year-old facility. Included are plans to widen the concourse, replace wooden seats and improve restroom and other facilities. A gift last year, combined with revenues from World Cup Soccer, enabled another project, upgrading the press facilities.

Upon completion of the renovation, the field in the stadium will be known as the "Louis W. Foster Family Field," for the couple and their five children. The Foster gift brings the department approximately halfway to its goal for Campaign 2000.

"I have been fortunate enough to do well in this life," said Foster, founder and chairman of 20th Century Industries, one of the largest insurance companies in the country. "I believe people should step up to the responsibility of giving back whatever they possibly can, and I hope this gift serves as an example in that way."

The Fosters have given generously to Stanford over time and have come to follow the collegiate careers of several athletes through a special program that links donors and their scholar-athletes.

"This commitment from Lou and Gladyce - generous as it is - is symbolic far beyond the dollar value of the gift," Athletic Director Ted Leland said. "In addition to giving a big boost to Campaign 2000, its example value is important on several levels.

"It encourages others to step forward," Leland said. "And it will allow us to ensure the viability of our football program. That has implications for the health of the overall athletic program."

Football revenues are a crucial form of support for the entire Stanford athletic program, and ticket sales make up a major portion of the income. In the highly competitive Bay Area sports entertainment market, it is hoped that renovating the aging stadium will encourage more attendance by casual fans.

Foster's ties to Stanford sports date back to his freshman year, when he was elected senior manager of the track team - a position for which 64 freshmen competed.

Foster remembers the manager experience as formative.

"I took the team on all their trips, arranged the meets, the meals and the hotels," he said. "The time went by fast and the pleasures were pretty frequent and pretty wonderful." As manager, Foster won his Stanford "Block S," an honor bestowed on varsity athletes.

Foster also followed football as a student, at a time when Stanford was a national power led by the legendary "Vow Boys." In a bit of lore familiar to every Stanford football fan, this group of freshmen vowed in 1933 never to lose a game to then-national champions USC. (They kept their vow.)

Foster founded 20th Century Industries in 1958 and helped build it into the $1.5 billion enterprise it is today. Foster also believes strongly that corporations should consider themselves public servants.

"My personal opinion is that a corporation should be an active participant in community affairs," Foster said. "We have been from day one." Foster's philanthropic involvements include the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the United Way, the Boy Scouts, Union Rescue Mission and many others.

Jim Ukropina, a Stanford trustee from Los Angeles who has known and worked with Foster, suggests that Foster's action is meant to be instructive as well as generous - and not just for other donors. Calling Foster an "outstanding leader" in the Southern California business community, Ukropina said he believes that embedded in the gift is a message to Stanford students.

"My sense is that Lou is also trying to remind students that hard work, integrity and a little bit of luck can go a long way," Ukropina said.

Renovations on the stadium are scheduled to begin later this year and will be finished by the fall of 1995.

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