Weber State University Magazine Spring 2014 : Page 16


What Goes Around, Comes Around

Karin Hurst

Sid W. Foulger reminisces about his lifechanging moment at Weber College and tells why, at 91, he generously donated $5 million to create the Sid & Mary Foulger School of Music in Weber State University’s Department of Performing Arts.

In autumn of 1939, three recently graduated Ogden High School athletes shuffled into the office of Weber College President H. Aldous Dixon. The young men had received football scholarships to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., but life back East hadn’t gone exactly as planned. For one thing, their teammates seemed to care more about stirring up mischief than getting an education. “It was quite shocking to see the way these guys behaved,” recalls Sid Foulger, who had hoped to use his scholarship as a springboard to a mechanical engineering degree. Foulger was also upset that his practice schedule interfered with his labs. “I figured it would take me about eight years to graduate if I stayed there.”

After just two weeks, broke and disillusioned, the trio decided to hitchhike home, a 2,100-mile ordeal that had them fearing for their lives in the back seat of a car whose tipsy driver had obviously had “one too many,” crossing the Ohio River during a terrifying rainstorm, and spending one restless night in a smelly Chicago chicken coop.

By the time the athletes made it back to Ogden, Weber College registration was over and classes were underway. In his office, President Dixon listened patiently as the young men described their predicament. After a pensive moment, he told Foulger and his buddies that if they’d promise to “work very hard,” he would personally contact the teachers of every class they wished to take, and ask that the boys be allowed to enroll. “This was a life-changing experience,” says Foulger, who admits that up until then, he hadn’t been a particularly ambitious scholar. “At that moment, I figured I’d had my fun and now it was time to become responsible.”

What goes around, comes around.

In spring of 2012, more than 70 years later, 91-year-old Sid W. Foulger repaid Dixon’s thoughtful intervention with a $5 million pledge to Weber State University’s music program. Foulger’s extraordinary generosity reflects his enduring gratitude for the school and community that gave him a start, and the caring administrator who gave him the person-to-person, life-altering attention that has been a Weber hallmark for 125 years.

The new Sid & Mary Foulger School of Music in the Department of Performing Arts is named in honor of Foulger and his late wife, Mary. It is a testament to the couple’s lifelong devotion to music and education, and an acknowledgement of the outstanding individual achievement that Results from Weber State’s nurturing environment. The spirit of collaboration between faculty and students is part of what sets the Foulger School apart from other distinguished Programs throughout the country. “Both students and faculty realize that the success of one individual means success for all of them,” explains Madonne Miner, dean of the Telitha E. Lindquist College of Arts & Humanities. “The culture of our program is supportive rather than cutthroat.”

Miner cites the creative partnership between Yu-Jane Yang, director of keyboard studies, and award-winning alumna Fan-Ya Lin ’13 as evidence. “Fan-Ya could have studied anywhere in the world, but she chose Weber State for her undergraduate work because she understood that Dr. Yang would best nurture her talents and help her mature as a performer,” Miner said. Their mutual respect was palpable during coaching sessions where Yang and Lin dissected musical phrases in terms of textures, colors, moods and taste, not just right and wrong notes.

Lin, who now attends a graduate program at The Juilliard School in New York City, claims the hours she spent with Yang outside the classroom were every bit as important to her success as time spent in formal study. “Usually, you just have a one-hour lesson,” she says, “but at Weber State, you can talk to your teacher about anything, your personal life as well as academics.”


Yang and Lin’s camaraderie intrigued Foulger when the three were introduced in March of 2012. Yang and Lin, who had attended a national music conference in New York, made a side trip to Foulger’s Maryland home at the invitation of WSU’s then-President Ann Millner. “We were actually scared because we didn’t know what we were supposed to talk with Mr. Foulger about,” recalls Yang, “but President Millner told us to just be ourselves.” For Lin, that meant playing the piano.She mesmerized her host with a flawless rendition of Franz Liszt’s La Campanella. “I am a lover of music,” says Foulger.“This young lady had a touch that was just outstanding.”

According to Millner, Lin’s impromptu performance clinched Foulger’s desire to help Weber State’s music program take center stage. “Sid is a pianist himself, and he immediately identified with Yu-Jane and Fan-Ya,” says Millner. “To watch that kind of immediate connection was electrifying.”

Foulger says his support of Weber State is a natural progression from being a good provider for his family, to being a passionate philanthropist. “Starting out, your first interest is to earn enough money to support those who depend on you,” he reasons, “but then you get to a point where you start being concerned about the welfare of others.”

Miner maintains that Foulger’s gift positions Weber State University to become the school of choice among serious students of music both nationally and internationally.“It is a tremendously big deal for us,” Miner says. “It will allow us to recruit high-caliber students and faculty, fund scholarships, send our students to prestigious competitions, purchase state-of-the-art instruments and technology, and develop more community outreach programs.”

Foulger’s generosity is a poignant illustration of WSU’s cycle of influence and the difference a caring educator can make in a student’s life. It is often said that no one leaves Weber State without a hero. In Sid Foulger’s case, a concerned college president took the time to nurture a struggling student’s pursuit of an educational dream. Years later, that same student, now a visionary real estate magnate, responded with a gift that will enhance his childhood community and launch the careers of countless generations of Weber State University musicians.

What goes around, comes around.

Sid W. Foulger is chairman of the board at Foulger-Pratt, one of the Washington, D.C. region’s most experienced and diverse construction, development and management companies.Foulger’s key projects include Crossroads Plaza in Salt Lake City, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Washington, D. C. Temple and Visitors’ Center and Silver Spring Metro Center in Maryland, home to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


“I have learned and grown so much in just two weeks. I know that opportunities like this are very rare. This festival will hold a very special place in my heart.”

— Tracy Bu, 21

“Thank you so much for giving our daughter this unique opportunity. Natalie enjoyed it so much that she just can’t stop talking about it.”

— Parents of Natalie Lin, 12

Those are just two, of many, emails sent to WSU music professors Shi-Hwa Wang and Yu-Jane Yang following the Foulger School’s premiere Sid & Mary Foulger International Music Festival for Strings and Piano, June 30–July 13,2013. The event attracted 52 young musicians from across the United States and Taiwan, China. Festival directors Wang and Yang view the event as an important recruitment tool. “We hope these talented musicians come here, get to know our program and Choose WSU when they’re old enough to select a university,” says Yang.

Wang and Yang used personal connections to assemble a world-class faculty that included Metropolitan Opera Orchestra violinist Garrett Fischbach from New York City. “He had never been to Ogden before,” Wang explains, “and he loved it here so much, he ended up staying for the rest of the summer.”

Festival participants were swept up in a daily whirlwind of musical activity. They took private lessons, attended master classes, learned tension-releasing breathing exercises, and watched the Utah Symphony rehearse at Abravanel Hall.
“Our festival is very unique because almost every minute our faculty are paying close attention to the students and there’s something going on all day,” says Wang. “I’ve been to other famous festivals, and you just sort of practice on your own until you meet in the afternoon to get ready for an evening concert.”

Wang and Yang scored an impressive coup by luring the Utah Symphony to Campus to accompany the three winners of the Foulger Festival Concerto Competition. “Before a professional orchestra of that caliber would be part of any music festival, they would first make sure that the performance level of the soloists was very high,” says Yang.“Also, the symphony wants to expand their educational programs north of Salt Lake City, and they felt this festival would provide that opportunity.”

And what about the Foulger Festival’s 92-year-old namesake? Was the music-loving nonagenarian able to witness the jaw-dropping concerto performances of pianist Sun Chang, 17, and violinists Strauss Shi, 17, and Da Huang, 15, in person? You better believe it! “Flying in from Maryland, he was so tired,” says Yang, “but whenever he hears someone play the piano beautifully, he is so awake and energized.”

“I think music is his vitamin,” says Wang with a smile.

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