For years, Verona High School students and their parents have loved The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) for its high quality education, its affordability and its proximity to Verona. It has become common for 20% of each year’s senior class to apply to the Ewing, N.J. institution.
As of 10:25 morning, Verona has one additional reason to love TCNJ: Its new president is a graduate of VHS.
TCNJ announced today that Dr. Kathryn A. Foster will become its 16th president. Foster, a 1975 graduate of VHS, had been the president of the University of Maine at Farmington since 2012.
“I am thrilled by Kathryn Foster’s selection as TCNJ’s 16th president,” said R. Barbara Gitenstein, the 15th president of TCNJ. “She has the right experience to prepare her for this role, having served as a chief executive officer in a state environment in which she has dealt with a range of higher education challenges at a senior level. She is an active listener and has a keen sense of our culture. She has the capacity to attend to that culture and learn from it. I am confident she will be very successful at TCNJ.”
“I am honored and humbled by the trust the board has placed in me,” said Foster. “TCNJ is an exceptional place with the highest standards and deeply rooted values that mirror my own. I look forward to working with its talented, wise, and dedicated community, from whom I will learn and with whom I will enjoy serving to advance this exceptional college.”
“President Foster is a dynamic and extraordinarily talented higher education leader and advocate,” said James H. Page, Chancellor of the University of Maine System. “The University of Maine at Farmington is a stronger institution, better positioned for success and service to Maine and its students because of Kate’s inspired guidance. The Board of Trustees and I are grateful for the time she has spent with us as a colleague and a friend. We thank Dr. Foster for her service and wish her and The College of New Jersey every success.”
Foster has had quite an educational and career trajectory since leaving Verona. She got an undergraduate degree in geography from Johns Hopkins, followed by a masters in city planning from Berkeley. She taught at Cal Poly, did a stint in Swaziland for the Peace Corps, and got her doctorate from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. She then led the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University at Buffalo and was the director of the university’s Regional Institute.
And now she is going to be back near the place she once called home. “There’s something about the immense value of growing up safe and cared for a in a community that looks after its young people,” Foster said about her youth in Verona. “Coming out of that environment gave me the confidence to do anything I wanted to do.” She noted that, like many Verona young people now, she had her first job opportunities in town, in her case at the Verona Recreation Department and the Verona Public Library.
Foster also gave credit for her success to her family, who she said always put education at the top of its value system and asked her every day how her day at school had been. “From my education at Brookdale Avenue to H.B. Whitehorne and Verona High, I have always felt well-prepared for any academic or scholastic challenge,” she said, though she conceded that she did not ever imagine back then that she would rise to being a university president.
Especially the president of a university that attracts so many applications from her former high school. Twenty-nine VHS students applied to TCNJ this year, with five reported acceptances. That’s up from 20 applicants and two enrolled in 2017 and 28 applicants and two enrolled in 2016.
“I look forward to returning to Verona,” said Foster, “and visiting the high school in my new capacity.”