Bion Foster ’68, ‘70G is an ardent supporter of the University of Maine where his generosity, dedication and enthusiasm are well known. Serving on a host of boards and committees, he enjoys helping guide the University toward a bright future and embraces the opportunity to tell people about the first-class education he received.
But it was long after he graduated that the successful real estate developer, business development consultant and entrepreneur became actively involved with his alma mater. Ten years ago, after agreeing to join the University of Maine Alumni Association’s board of directors, he arrived on campus where a flood of happy memories promptly engulfed him.
“It was just like flicking on a light switch. It brought back all the wonderful times I had and it resurrected an appreciation for my UMaine education,” says the Hampden native who earned a BS in marketing and an MBA in finance.
Bion and his wife, Dorain ’68H, special projects coordinator at the UMaine Office of Development, have given $1.5 million to name UMaine’s Student Innovation Center where students gain the knowledge, tools and inspiration to turn their great ideas into thriving businesses and become successful entrepreneurs.
The couple made the gift to honor their four daughters and their families: Andrea Foster; Pamela Foster Albert, husband Keith and sons Caleb and Breccan; Joan Hopkins, husband Brian and son Drew and daughter Kate; and Holly Kopp and husband Ian and son Blair and daughter Emma.
“It is fitting that this facility will bear the name of Bion and Dorain Foster,” UMaine President Robert Kennedy said. “They are true innovators and entrepreneurs who have succeeded in business and become community leaders because they exemplify the skill, intelligence, work ethic and creativity that we strive to develop in our students.”
The gift was announced early in January at the Bion and Dorain Foster Student Innovation Center where more than 100 students, faculty, staff members, friends and family members gathered to thank the couple for their ongoing support of UMaine.
“I can’t think of a building that means more for the future of Maine than what can go on right here,” Campaign Maine co-chair Allen Fernald said at the event.
Some of the money donated by the Fosters will be used to support the Student Recreation and Fitness Center, where the second-floor multipurpose room is named in their honor, and for scholarship funds through an endowment at the University of Maine Foundation.
“Bion and Dorain are truly exemplary community leaders, and their long-term devotion to the University of Maine will have a positive impact for many years to come,” said Barbara Beers, UMaine’s vice president for development. “Campaign Maine is a success because people like the Fosters see UMaine as an invaluable, unique resource that is worthy of their philanthropy. We are deeply appreciative of this gift, and of the Fosters’ decades of meaningful support.”
Naming the Bion and Dorain Foster Student Innovation Center is a way to say thanks to the University, says Bion, who put himself through school flipping hamburgers at a fast-food restaurant in Bangor that he leased and operated, and working as an operations analyst for Dead River Company in Bangor.
Applying the theories he was learning in the classroom to the practical experience he was getting through his part-time jobs helped hone his entrepreneurial talent and paved the way for a successful professional life.
“Over the course of my business career I became more and more appreciative of my UMaine education,” he says. “Especially after earning my MBA I felt very confident that I could be successful.”
Today, Bion is serving his alma mater in a variety of roles. He is a member of the University of Maine Board of Visitors and the President’s Development Council, and he has chaired the University of Maine Alumni Association Board of Directors.
Volunteering for the University Bion says he has met more alumni and more people from his graduating class than he ever knew as a student. “I love to hear their stories. The camaraderie I’ve gained in the past 10 years reinforced what I already knew – that no college in the country could have provided me with a better education, and that UMaine people are a wonderful group.”
It’s never too late to establish ties with alumni, he says.
“If we can find an opportunity to reconnect with fellow alumni no matter what their stage of life it will be a win-win for both them and the University.”
Says Dorain, “Bion’s passion and enthusiasm made it hard for me not to get excited about UMaine myself. The University is fortunate to have alumni like him.”
Named “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2001 by the Finance Authority of Maine and “Business Person of the Year” in 2003 by the Hampden Business Association, Bion has been helping to improve the economic well-being of central and eastern Maine for 35 years. He has been active in entrepreneurial activities, including the start-up, acquisition or ownership of more than 40 companies in Maine and South Carolina. Former owner of the historic Lucerne Inn in Dedham, he is economic development director for the town of Hampden where, among other things, he built a shopping center, rehabilitated numerous properties, and helped create the Hampden Business and Commerce Park. He is co-owner of one of the premier residential developments in the town, Oldfield Estates.
Bion likes the idea that the Student Innovation Center enables young people to hone their entrepreneurial spirit while they’re still in school. As a budding businessman when he was a student, he says he could have benefited greatly from such a place.
Meanwhile, he looks forward to lending his expertise.
“I love sitting down with students and passing along any ideas and thoughts as well as pitfalls to avoid,” he says. “So many people have technical minds and great ideas, but aren’t sure how to take their creative ideas to the marketplace.”
Image Description: Bion '68, MBA'70 and Dorain '68H Foster