The University of Northern Iowa holds a special place in the hearts’ of Rod and Heidi Foster. Rod started his long career in accounting because of his education at the College of Business. UNI is also where he met his wife, Heidi, a graduate of the chemistry program. They now have two grown sons—one of which is also a UNI graduate. Because of their UNI experience, Rod and Heidi both feel the need to give back to the university and repay it for giving them the tools and experiences to be successful in business and life. 

“When I tell you what UNI has done for me, it just gave me everything,” Rod said. “And that was even without a scholarship—they gave me the chance through education.” 

To give back, the Fosters have established the Foster Fellowship for Junior Faculty in Accounting. It will be awarded to a junior faculty member in accounting beginning fall semester. Through their gift to a professor, they hope to support the excellence in teaching by faculty members and directly impact the lives of students.

“My focus is on the professors, the people actually making the investment in students,” Rod said. “When Heidi and I talked about doing something, we asked ourselves, ‘Could we do something that would have a big impact?’”

Rod’s career in accounting has allowed the family to pay it forward. He started at McGladrey in the mid-1980s after graduating from the College of Business. And even after mergers—McGladrey is now part of RSM US, LLP, an international accounting firm—he hasn’t left. He’s been a partner since 1994 and serves as the location leader for Des Moines and Mason City. He is also the market leader for Omaha, Lincoln and Kansas City.

Heidi found success because of UNI as well. She first studied music before switching her major to chemistry. Eventually, she joined the Des Moines Symphony, playing the French horn and performing under director Joseph Giunta. Heidi has set up a legacy fund for the UNI School of Music as well—joining Rod, who is funding a legacy fund for accounting—so she was on board with the decision to fund the Foster Fellowship. 

“Rod is passionate about recruiting, he’s passionate about his firm, and he’s passionate about the profession,” Heidi said. “So, he knows how important it is to have a professor who can reach a lot of people.” 

Rod is still deeply involved with the College of Business. He serves on the accounting advisory board and regularly makes it to Cedar Falls, as he is actively involved in the firm’s recruitment of UNI accounting students. He says he speaks to every College of Business student who is hired full-time at the Des Moines office. 

“Every student that we’ve hired [from the College of Business] in accounting the last 25 years, they get the phone call from me. That’s really cool,” Foster said. “I get to tell them they got an offer. I still get a kick out of doing it.” 

Both Rod and Heidi agree that the gifts they have given back to UNI are another way of fulfilling their passion for reaching young adults and changing lives. 

“It’s the feeling and knowing you’re able to do it,” Rod said. “It’s knowing that you can do something that will hopefully alter other people’s lives. That’s pretty cool. For me, that’s the best thing.”