Bob Foster

December 20, 2011

LOS ANGELES -- Bob Foster ('65) - alumnus, professor, advisor, mentor, and friend - now has a new designation as the government of Finland has bestowed upon him the honor of Knight, First Class, of the order of the White Rose of Finland. This is the highest honor the government of Finland may present to a non- Finnish citizen.

Foster received his knighthood December 9, 2011, at the Los Angeles residence of Finnish Consul General Kirsti Westphalen. The ceremony was attended by UCLA Anderson Dean Judy Olian, Senior Associate Deans Alfred E. Osborne, Jr. and Carla Hayn, Associate Dean Gonzalo Freixes and Vice-Chancellor Emeritus Dr. Elwin Svenson, who is Foster's close colleague in the administration of Anderson's Global Access Program (GAP). Svenson himself joined the Order of the White Rose when he was knighted by the Finnish government in 2004 (Read the story here). The ceremony for Foster took place at a dinner the consul general held for a group of Finnish business executives who had traveled to Los Angeles to witness the final GAP presentations given the following day on the Anderson campus.

"Finns know their friends. Tonight, while we are looking at the wonderful achievements of the UCLA GAP program, we want to recognize our friends (and) there is especially one special friend present here," said Consul General Westphalen at the dinner. "At the request of the President of the Republic of Finland, I have the honor to bestow upon (Bob Foster) a very significant recognition: Knight First Class, The Order of White Rose of Finland.

"Our Finnish friends know what a prestigious award this is but to put it into perspective for our American and international friends, this is an award similar to the Presidential Medal of Freedom that the President of the United States bestows for extraordinary achievements. On behalf of Finland, on behalf of all of us, the one thousand alumni who you have fostered into maturity in their businesses, we are truly grateful to you," the consul general said as she presented the medal to Foster.

"I was at a loss for words, just blown away," said Foster, who was not told he'd be receiving the honor in advance. "I never thought that I would receive the knighthood. It was just an amazing experience. I never had so many pictures taken."

Foster received the Order of the White Rose in recognition of his efforts, through the GAP program, to help Finnish technology companies expand into markets abroad, including the United States. On behalf of the GAP program Foster frequently travels to Finland where he liaisons with officials of TEKES, the Finnish funding agency for technology and innovation, in efforts to recruit companies to participate in GAP.

"This is a wonderful and most deserved honor for Bob Foster - now 'Sir Bob'," said Dean Judy Olian. "The knighthood recognizes Bob's trailblazing leadership of the GAP program. It also reflects the high esteem in which GAP is held by Finland and the other nations whose companies participate in this program which achieves such broad economic impact."

Foster says that his most recent honor illustrates the value the Finnish government places on that country's relationship to UCLA and the Global Access Program. Foster said that in 13 years, there have been 121 Finnish companies participating in GAP out of 420 total.

"I consider myself very lucky," said Foster, who was named as one of UCLA Anderson's 100 Inspirational Alumni in 2010 as part of the school's 75th anniversary celebration. "We work hard, we do good work and I'm just overwhelmed. It's a great honor for the school."

The Order of the White Rose was instituted January 28, 1919, by then Regent Carl Gustav Mannerheim and revised May 16, 1919. December 6th, the independence day of Finland is the ceremonial day of the Order. The Order is awarded to foreign and Finnish citizens to recognize services to Finland, and for bravery in combat during wartime. The Orders of Finland are administered by a board consisting of a chancellor, a vice-chancellor and at least four other members. The Finnish president is head of the Order.

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