Published December 3, 2019
Herbert Foster, a professor emeritus from the Department of Learning and Instruction, was completely caught off guard on a Friday afternoon. While visiting Edgartown Public Library (EPL) in Massachusetts, of which Foster serves as a trustee, former United States first lady Michelle Obama surprised students, patrons and staff members with an unannounced visit. “Everybody was overwhelmed with joy and we are really hoping our former first lady will become a regular to the library and read more often to the kids,” Foster said.
Foster has been a beloved and devoted EPL trustee since he was elected in 2006. He served GSE for 28 years and, prior to joining UB, he was a teacher and administrator in the New York City Public Schools. In 2012, Foster established the Anita G. and Herbert L. Foster Learning and Instruction Scholarship, which supports students pursuing degrees in literacy and special education in GSE. Foster created the scholarship to honor his late wife Anita (EdD ’85, Reading Education), who was a reading specialist during her career. Reading and literacy are important to Herb and his late wife.
“Libraries have been a part of my life since I was a child, and I have served on a number of library dissertation committees,” Foster said. “I’ve always built our UB libraries into my research and teaching.” While at UB, Foster remembers conducting an experiment in teacher training, along with his students. They participated in a winter break with Outward Bound, which is a weekend experiential adventure.
“We are so grateful Foster is on our board, as he visits the library frequently as a patron, and fortuitously happened to be visiting the library when Mrs. Obama stopped by,” said Lisa Sherman, the EPL director. “As you can imagine, we were all beyond thrilled about the visit.” During her half-hour stay, Mrs. Obama was accompanied by personal assistants, Secret Service and her mother, Marian Shields Robinson.
According to Sherman, Mrs. Obama encouraged the children to keep reading, writing, learning and supporting each other. “She came right up to me and said, ‘Hi Lisa, it’s so nice to meet you. Keep doing what you’re doing,’ and then she gave me a big hug,” Sherman said. At the end of the visit, Mrs. Obama jumped in for a group photo with the 20-plus kids who attend the library’s afterschool program and signed the library’s copy of her book, “Becoming.”
“Out of all of the libraries in the world, she came to ours,” Sherman said. “Our little library. I’m so proud of that.”