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ASU school mourns passing of Regents Professor David William Foster

June 30, 2020

David William Foster, who joined ASU 54 years ago and helped build the Spanish and Portuguese programs now housed in the School of International Letters and Cultures, died June 24 at age 79. 

Foster was a Regents Professor of Spanish and women’s and gender studies at Arizona State University. He was a trailblazer who published groundbreaking research in the larger fields of Latin American studies and LGBTQ studies. Among his publications are over 50 book-length, single-authored critical studies, bibliographies and anthologies; more than 36 edited and co-edited anthologies; and numerous articles and translations.

His interest in contestational and resistance writing led him to study the production of three groups most attacked by military tyranny: independent women, Jews, and gays and lesbians. The interest in these groups and their innovative cultural production also generated a curiosity in theater and film, both of which became enormously important as part of the culture of democratization in Argentina after the return to constitutional democracy in 1983. 

He later turned to writing about graphic narratives and photography. In fact, he was the only North American scholar working systematically on the photographic archive of Latin America, with an emphasis on urban spaces.

Foster’s dedication to gender studies and LGBTQ studies resulted in innovation to the ASU undergraduate curriculum. He was a large force in creating cutting-edge programs and courses in these fields. 

During Foster’s time at ASU, he held Fulbright teaching appointments in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, and served as an Inter-American Development Bank Professor in Chile. He also held visiting appointments at various universities and colleges around the country, including Fresno State College, Vanderbilt University, University of California — Riverside and Florida International University. He organized and taught six seminars for teachers under the auspices of the National Endowment for the Humanities, his most recent having been in Sao Paulo in 2013. 

Foster was recognized for his work with numerous awards, including the Graduate College’s Outstanding Graduate Mentor in 1989, Researcher of the Year by the Alumni Association in 1994, the Armando Discepolo Prize for theater scholarship in 2000 and for his lifetime work on Argentine culture by the Centro de Narratologia in 2010.  

Students, staff, and faculty who were privileged enough to know Professor Foster will miss him dearly, and remember him for his enormous intellectual presence, impact on scholarship, generosity, and, last but not least, his contagious laughter and distinctive cologne.

Please consider donating to the "Foster Latin American Research Fellowship Endowment" in honor of Dr. Foster's outstanding contributions to this program. Your generosity expands research opportunities for graduate students engaged in Latin American studies. 


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