This website is best viewed in a browser that supports web standards.

Skip to content or, if you would rather, Skip to navigation.

Northwest Missouri State University

News Release

Members of Robert and Virginia Foster’s family joined Northwest students, faculty and staff Thursday as the University celebrated the grand opening of the Robert and Virginia Foster Fitness Center.

Members of Robert and Virginia Foster’s family joined Northwest students, faculty and staff Thursday as the University celebrated the grand opening of the Robert and Virginia Foster Fitness Center. (Photos by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

    Sept. 10, 2015

    Northwest pays tribute to Fosters with opening of fitness center

    Doug Foster, son of Robert and Virginia Foster, reflects on his parents legacy as leaders and public servants during a ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the Robert and Virginia Foster Fitness Center on the Northwest campus.

    Doug Foster, son of Robert and Virginia Foster, reflects on his parents legacy as leaders and public servants during a ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the Robert and Virginia Foster Fitness Center on the Northwest campus.

    Northwest Missouri State University celebrated the opening of its Robert and Virginia Foster Fitness Center Thursday with a ribbon-cutting and a tribute to its namesakes.

    Dr. Robert Foster and his wife, Virginia served as Northwest's president and first lady from 1964 to 1977. Under Dr. Foster's leadership, the campus experienced extensive growth, including the construction or renovation of 13 buildings during his tenure as president – including the construction of the Garrett-Strong Science Building, the Olive DeLuce Fine Arts Building, the high-rise residence halls and the Valk Center as well as a major expansion of the J.W. Jones Student Union.

    Enrollment grew From 500 to 3,500 students during Foster’s presidency, academic opportunities increased and Northwest advanced from college to university status.

    Dr. Foster died in 2008 at the age of 90, and Virginia died last year at age 97. Doug Foster, Robert and Virginia Foster’s son, represented the Foster family at the ceremony along with his wife, Lisa, and children, Avery and Grant.

    “I’m so proud of the growth that occurred during their time and the continuing passion for growth and expansion we see today,” Doug Foster said.

    In addition to his parents’ contributions to Northwest, Doug Foster reflected on their work as public servants.

    Virginia taught elementary school in Clarinda, Iowa, and Dr. Foster taught and coached in Carrollton, Mo., where the couple met. In Maryville, they advocated for the development of Highway 71 and an industrial park in addition to volunteering with the Boy Scouts. They also were ambassadors for the Civil Rights Movement.

    “There’s a leadership and legacy here that throughout their collective career, leadership was a cherished, shared value,” Doug Foster said. “I think there are a lot of misguided notions about leadership today. Some think you lead from the top. Some think you lead from behind. My dad and mom knew that you lead shoulder to shoulder, by example and with love, which is why naming this center for both of them is so perfect.”

    While their strong leadership was a hallmark of the Fosters’ time at Northwest, Dr. John Jasinski, the University’s current president, also noted the Fosters’ ability to build strong relationships with students, faculty, staff and community members.

    “Mostly and more importantly, (Dr. Foster) was a people person,” Jasinski told the large crowd of students, current and former faculty and staff, local and state administrators, and community members gathered for the ceremony. “Mrs. Foster was a people person as well. What they did was really set the stage to say it’s about relationships, and that’s their legacy. They were leaders that people wanted to follow.”

    Dr. Foster served Northwest in various capacities for 30 years, becoming its registrar in 1948. Foster also served as director of admissions and dean of administration before moving into the president's office. In addition to overseeing the campus’ growth as president, he was instrumental in the creation of the Northwest Foundation, which funded the construction of the iconic Memorial Bell Tower, and he had a leading role in securing funding to establish KXCV/KRNW, Northwest's award-winning 100,000-watt National Public Radio affiliate.

    Speaking on behalf of Northwest students, Student Senate Vice President Paige Diels said students are fortunate to attend a university that not only places emphasis on students’ academic success but also on their health and well-being.

    The Student Senate worked with Northwest administration in 2014 and approved a slight increase to student fees to help support the Foster Fitness Center.  

    “As students, we understand there is always a never-ending list of programs and priorities that compete for precious resources and donations on every college campus,” Diels said. “One of the reasons we choose Northwest is because of the success and dedication that is demonstrated by the school in our respective areas of study. But there are other needs we have as an academic community that are equally important for rounding out your life as a Bearcat. As we increasingly exercise our minds, it is rewarding that Northwest is empowering us by providing a state-of-the-art facility for all students to not neglect our physical fitness.”


    About the Foster Fitness Center

    Though Thursday’s grand-opening celebration formally marked the completion of the University’s reimagining of its former aquatic center, the facility opened for use by Northwest students and employees Monday, Aug. 31 – after just nine months of construction – in conjunction with the start of the fall trimester.

    The structure initially opened in 1981 as the 15,000-square-foot Robert P. Foster Aquatic Center.

    With plans for the reconstruction taking shape, Northwest’s Board of Regents, in March 2014, approved the renaming of the former Foster Aquatic Center to the Robert and Virginia Foster Fitness Center. The Northwest community subsequently gathered in May 2014 for a ceremony to celebrate the renaming and the Foster family's legacy. That ceremony – attended by dozens of current and former University administrators, faculty and staff, and friends – featured Jasinski talking with the Fosters’ sons, Robert Foster III and Doug Foster, before an unveiling of a sign with renderings of the new facility.

    In November 2014, Northwest’s Board of Regents approved a construction budget and the awarding of a project bid to Lee Grover Construction Co., of St. Joseph, Mo. Construction began a week later as crews began filling the former pool with 31,000 cubic feet of gravel.

    During ensuing months, the building was transformed and expanded into a state-of-the-art fitness center, consisting of 19,490 square feet of open floor space to accommodate cardio and weight lifting machines, a human performance lab and classroom space.

    The facility houses a group exercise room and a 2,300-square-foot mezzanine with cardio equipment and windows that provide natural lighting in the facility. It also includes new locker rooms and an enclosed walkway connecting Northwest’s existing Student Recreation Center for added convenience. Energy usage is greatly reduced in the new space with all new mechanical and electrical systems as well as LED lighting.

    The Anita Aldrich Human Performance Lab inside the Foster Fitness Center is named for Dr. Anita Aldrich, 1936 Northwest graduate who dedicated herself to health, physical education and recreation education. During a career spanning 47 years, she served as a teacher and administrator of physical education programs in King City, St. Joseph and Kansas City, Mo., and at Indiana University. She was appointed in 1961 as an advisor to President John F. Kennedy’s Fitness Council and served as president during 1962-1963 of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education and Recreation to which she was later named an honor fellow.

    Memberships and hours

    Students have full access to the Foster Fitness Center through a $4 per-credit-hour-fitness fee that is included in their tuition.

    Memberships are available to Northwest employees and affiliates at costs of $120 for an annual membership, $20 per month or $5 per day.

    Patrons must complete an electronic assumption of risk/liability waiver before they can use the Foster Fitness Center or the Student Recreation Center. The waiver is accessible by logging on to CatPaws and clicking on the Personal Information tab.

    The facility is open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

    To learn more about the Foster Fitness Center, visit

    For more information, please contact:

    Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

    Northwest Missouri State University
    215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468