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Foster To Resign As UB Executive, ‘Proud Of Contribution’

June 1st, 2016 · 29 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Politics, News and Events

Mary-Jane Foster at the ballpark at Harbor Yard

Mary-Jane Foster, co-founder of the Bridgeport Bluefish, at the ballpark at Harbor Yard

Effective this Friday two-time mayoral candidate Mary-Jane Foster will resign as vice president of University Relations at the University of Bridgeport. “It’s been a great run,” she wrote in an email to friends “and I’m proud of my contribution to the university but it is time for a new challenge.” In an interview with OIB she made it clear she will remain active in the city. “I am not retiring.”

Foster, co-founder of the Bridgeport Bluefish baseball team, joined the university in April 2009. In the years since, UB has experienced extraordinary growth with a student population of more than 5,000 anchoring the South End along Seaside Park, one of P.T. Barnum’s gifts to the city.

In her role as head of University Relations, Foster was a key fundraiser bringing millions of new dollars to the university. “I’m incredibly proud that we came together as a department,” she said Wednesday morning in a phone interview. “We received a record number of donors and a couple of seven-figure numbers. The university is a treasure. I’m proud of the way we have engaged the community in terms of bringing the university to the community and the community onto the campus. I am proud of the contributions I made and the university is poised for great and wonderful things. I am a friend of UB. I will be there when they need me.”

Ganim, Foster, Finch

Foster had issues with “the boys” Ganim and Finch.

Foster wasn’t afraid to mix it up politically. She supported Bill Finch for mayor in 2007, but Finch’s tin ear to the importance of the university stemming from a stubborn opposition toward an arm of the Unification Church bailing out the university financially in the early 1990s set the two on a personal collision course. Finch boycotted university events and trashed it publicly, irrespective of business and political leaders and mayoral staffers urging him to embrace the university for the greater good of the city.

In the spring of 2011, largely unknown in the city beyond her base support in Black Rock, Foster entered the mayor’s race. Despite outspent two to one she waged a competitive race in a number of city precincts losing a Democratic primary to Finch on his way to a general election win. Foster’s campaign proved some storm warnings for Finch. He was particularly vulnerable in a key African American precinct in the East End. The mayor’s word, public safety and lack of jobs had come into question. Timing is key in politics and despite building some good will and a base support from anti-Finch operatives, Foster did not take advantage of her first run. She was largely quiet on a host of issues in the years that followed. The anti-Finch movement was looking for a candidate. They found it in former Mayor Joe Ganim who reemerged in early 2015 following his conviction on corruption charges in 2003.

A number of Foster supporters from 2011 had gravitated to Ganim, a premier retail politician who stitched together coalitions guided by a mighty African American base inspired by his second-chance message. By the time Foster had entered the race in the spring of 2015 with equal enmity toward Finch and Ganim it was too late to build a strong campaign operation. She also had trouble raising money and kicked in a sizable amount of her own dough. She finished a distant third to Ganim and Finch in the Democratic primary, but she was not finished as a relevant candidate when Finch’s plans to run as a petitioning candidate in replacement of a straw man was scuttled by a paperwork gaffe. Foster, however, made the move Finch should have made, petitioning herself onto the general election ballot–as did Ganim–prior to the primary as a plan B.

Foster, Finch unite

Foster and Finch united in general election.

Finch could not stomach a Ganim mayoralty. Despite his worn relationship with Foster, Finch supported her in the general election against Ganim who won convincingly over Foster with Republican Rick Torres finishing a distant third.

While Finch was hostile to UB, Ganim who graduated from UB law school took the direct opposite approach, embracing the university and making several visits there in his first six months as mayor including a proposal for a Downtown Gateway to the UB campus. Ganim had also named UB President Neil Salonen a co-chair of his mayoral transition team.

Although Ganim’s return as mayor was a difficult private recognition for Foster, she had announced publicly it was time to put differences aside on behalf of the university.

Foster, a former professional actress, lives in Black Rock with her husband Jack McGregor. Together they were catalysts of the sports entertainment development at the edge of Downtown and the South End that is now the ballpark and arena.

She issued this email to friends the other day.

“Effective this Friday, June 3, I will be leaving UB. It’s been a great run and I’m beyond proud of my contribution to the university but it is time for a new challenge.

“As my darling Jack says, ‘I can hardly wait to see how this turns out!’

“I will tell you that I’m already booked at the Bijou Theater for the fall when I shall return to the stage as Mother Superior in the musical ‘Sister Act.’ I know, I know–typecast again.”

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29 Comments so far ↓

  • Steven Auerbach

    I think Mary-Jane Foster is a great asset to the City of Bridgeport and The University of Bridgeport. I have always maintained UB is the economic engine in the South End, a great marketing tool for the city of Bridgeport. Making believe the University did not exist was harmful to the city in many ways. That was my biggest criticism of the Mayor I supported, Bill Finch. I am glad Ganim was wise enough to embrace the University. We move forward. Mary-Jane Foster has contributed to the community in so many ways. I was proud to support her candidacy 4.5 years ago. Timing is everything. I believe Mary-Jane will accomplish many great things and I am happy she will be back on stage. Nothing worse than a frustrated actor.

    I recently saw former Mayor Bill Finch’s son Christopher Finch perform at the Bijou. For those who missed the performance, I will say he is an excellent actor and it was a very pleasant surprise. He will be performing again at the Bijou in the Theater production of a “Raisin In The Sun.”

    Mary-Jane Foster in “Sister Act” should be great and I look forward to seeing it!

    • Steven Auerbach

      BTW, Downtown Bridgeport has a terrific new restaurant with excellent food–the old Toni’s Tuscan Restaurant is now Scarpariello’s. It is brand new and we discovered it by accident. The menu is phenomenal and the food was delicious. Just across the street from the City Hall Annex.

      • Frank Underwood

        That’s because Toni’s was a sad excuse for a dried-out, ten-dollar meatball. The curse of downtown is a good portion of the restaurants barely last 1-3 years.

      • Godiva2011

        I’m planning to have lunch there tomorrow and anxious to try it. Anything would be better than Toni’s Tuscan, I thought their food was awful. Next door, Barnum’s Public House has a very nice Sunday brunch with bottomless Mimosas.

    • Frank the Cabana Boy

      Oh yes, there are far worse things than a frustrated actor.

  • Ron Mackey

    Mary-Jane Foster, thank you for your time and service to make Bridgeport better. Smart, strong and caring are the gifts you shared with the City of Bridgeport and The University of Bridgeport. I want to thank your husband Jack McGregor for sharing you with us. I love you and thanks.

  • Grin Ripper

    Break a leg!

  • Bob Walsh

    This is how I responded to MJF’s email:
    MJF
    You have truly inspired me again!!!
    I quit my job this morning and I immediately began working on a new version of the old standard “Twelve Angry Men.”
    Except my version will be a one-man show, starring me, to be entitled “One Angry man; Bob Walsh, judge, jury and executioner.”
    I am planning rehearsals for the Bijou. Maybe we can do lunch one day when we run into each other there.
    God, I hope this wasn’t a mistake. It is so unlike me to make rash, emotional decisions.

    • Steven Auerbach

      Bob Walsh, I bet if you put your energy into writing that play, it would be a hit instead of droning on and on about your miserable impression of this city.

  • Frank Gyure

    I’ve had some dealings with MJF on a purely personal basis. She is not a very nice person.

  • Jeff Kohut

    UB was very fortunate to have Mary-Jane contributing to their growth and development. I attended her seminars and always left impressed with agenda, presenters, and all the wonderful information presented by the diverse, expert presenters. I will always remember the seminar on business opportunities in China.

    The intelligence and class Mary-Jane brought to UB, and the many well-planned, well-executed initiatives that can be credited to her, will leave lasting, positive momentum at UB for many years.

    As an alumnus, I thank Mary-Jane for her years of outstanding service at UB.

    Good luck Mary-Jane in your future endeavors!

  • Mojo

    *** Classy Lady who would have made a great Mayor of Bpt. *** I wish her the best always! ***

  • Dave Walker

    Good luck and all the best, Mary-Jane.

  • Pat Fardy

    Mary-Jane you were a wonderful asset to UB. I am sure you will be missed.
    Going back to the theater, wow, you started there and now back!!!
    Wonderful.
    Jack and Mary-Jane I wish you lots of good times and doing enjoyable things in your retirement.
    Love you both and will see you soon.
    Love, Pat

  • John Marshall Lee

    Whether you were acting on behalf of clients professionally, a neighborhood community with spirit, sports fans energetically, an academic community thoughtfully, or taxpayers and voters with integrity and vision, you have shared yourself, time and family with this community with excellence. If you will focus on a return to the stage, please hold a table for opening night at the Bijou. It will be good to laugh with you about institutional hypocrisy in other places. Time will tell.

  • Godiva2011

    MJF is a dynamic lady with a great personality. I’m sure she will be missed at UB. I wish her the best with her new endeavors!

  • Lisa Parziale

    My gut is saying she was sabotaged. Slowly and covertly by someone who didn’t like the fact she ran for Mayor. Now we know it wasn’t Finch! She’s a lady and a professional, I believe she knew and made the decision to leave on her terms.

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