ETC co-founder and CEO Fred Foster passed away on February 8, 2019 at the age of 61. Foster was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and fought a courageous battle lasting years longer than originally projected. Foster leaves behind a legacy of a company that has impacted the theatrical world in countless ways. He is survived by his
wife Susan, and two children, Kate and James, who all currently work at ETC.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the
Behind the Scenes charity.
memorial page on Facebook has been started to share memories, photos, and well-wishes for his family.
Fred Foster was a visionary, an innovator, a role model, and a true leader to many. His contributions to the entertainment technology industry are countless and range from product innovations to student mentorship programs. He’s been recognized repeatedly for his philanthropy from a number of organizations.
While studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 1970’s, under the mentorship of lighting-design luminary Gilbert Hemsley, Jr., Foster and his brother Bill, Gary Bewick and James Bradley developed a groundbreaking lighting-control console for theater, Mega Cue, in Foster’s apartment. This was
where ETC was born.
Over time, Foster performed virtually all roles for ETC – from original inventor/engineer to industrial designer, tech support, salesman, marketer, chief operating officer, to president, and finally, CEO.
Under the people-focused leadership of Foster, the company steadily grew, slowly at first and then much more quickly. Through the years Foster never lost sight of the core of his business... the people.
Foster occasionally worried he had not contributed enough to the technology of lighting. He was known to overlook the enormous impact he had in building a company that positively impacted so many aspects of the industry. His greatest talent and contribution in life was his ability to bring people
together and rally them around a goal or vision. Whether it was a new product technology, a tradeshow booth design, or an employee meeting space, he was always creating, always making, and always giving. His ideas were big, and his heart bigger.
Countless employees tell stories of how Fred personally, and quietly, helped their families in a time of need offering funding, plane tickets, vacation time, and more. There is no denying it, Fred honestly loved helping his ETC family in any way he could.
Foster was not known for spending money on stereotypical CEO indulgences like airplanes or large houses. Instead he focused on how he could maintain a cohesive internal ETC community while having an impactful role on the external community.
In 2015 it came to light that ETC’s community betterment committee, the company’s philanthropic grant organization, was receiving so many grant requests that they were forced to choose between giving money to community based and performance based operations. In order to support as many community
organizations as possible, Fred and his wife Susan made the decision to start an additional fund – the first for theatrical and performance groups, and a second to help with basic human needs such as hunger and shelter. Foster’s generosity continued through countless donations to disaster relief and
humanitarian funds both on the local and global level, always through the name of the ETC Corporation.
Themed after the famous Nighthawks painting by Edward Hopper, Town Square became a New York-style neighborhood for employees to gather for lunches, meetings, and events. Town Square completely changed the social scene at ETC; each day you’ll find groups
of people from all areas of the company meeting, laughing, and relaxing in this space inspired by Foster’s vision.
After Town Square was complete, Foster moved on to designing and creating the London office’s theatre-themed space and the artfully detailed New York City office. He designed and built countless tradeshow booths, and spent hours creating intricate CAD drawings
that would drive his CNC router to create bricks, moldings, and other intricate surfaces that adorn ETC spaces around the globe. He was always adding extra details using the mantra “because we can.”
Foster’s creativity, playfulness, kindness, and compassion will be missed. He built a unique corporate culture around the idea that every employee should be heard and every idea made valid.
Foster passed away in 2019 at the age of 61.
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