One of Upper Iowa University’s revered alumni celebrated his 103rd birthday Sunday, February 6. A World War II veteran and Fayette native, Foster Cass graduated with a degree in math and business administration and a minor in history from UIU in 1941. Now living in Los Alamitos, California, Cass has dedicated his life to family, the world of education, and philanthropy efforts.
“Foster is a treasured alumnus of Upper Iowa University, and one worth every honor bestowed upon him,” said President William R. Duffy II. “His service to country and community, dedication to education and preserving UIU’s history, and a human spirit filled with ever-present good humor and charm, are all reasons he is considered one of our most extraordinary and special alumni. We are extremely proud to have him as a member of the Peacock family.”
A native of rural northeast Iowa, Cass and his family eventually moved across the street from UIU’s Fayette Campus, where he and his brothers and sister attended college. During college, Foster joined the Pi Rho Zeta national honorary fraternity, sang in the choir, wrote poetry, played football under legendary coach Doc Dorman, and worked at Fayette Campus to pay for books and tuition. He met his wife, Maxine Marion Duff, in UIU’s then David B. Henderson Library, the first Carnegie academic library in Iowa.
World War II began in Europe while Cass was attending the university. He became one of 10 students to graduate from UIU’s pilot’s training course in June 1941, before earning his degrees. Soon after graduation, Cass enlisted in the Navy where he became a commissioned officer. He primarily served as a watch officer and communications officer, including time as a “plank owner,” coincidentally as a member of the first crew of the USS Fayette. Cass also had the honor to receive and announce the “cease offensive operations” telegram to his shipmates on the USS Ormsby at the end of World War II. During his time on ships at sea, the Navy veteran traveled approximately 80,000 nautical miles.
After his military service, Cass enjoyed a distinguished career in public education in Iowa and California. Throughout his life, he maintained a deep love for Upper Iowa University and the Fayette community. Often times in his correspondence he referred to the people of Fayette as the “salt of the earth.” An eternal devotion to his alma mater has been evident through the many books Cass has written about his time on the Fayette Campus.
Cass has supported a number of initiatives at UIU, most recently the UIU Archives and the UIU Foster Cass Archives Walk. The project ensures the University’s abundant past is rightly catalogued, interpreted and presented in a way that future generations of UIU students and members of the Fayette community can only further appreciate the rich history that has graced UIU. Whether it be recalling similar campus experiences or those of more historic significance, the UIU Foster Cass Archives Walk allows for all participants to share in experiencing what made and continues to make UIU.
In addition to his commitment to the Archive project, his gifts also include an endowed scholarship in honor of his parents, Rev. Frank W. Cass and Carrie Jackley Cass, and family members who are UIU alumni, including Edward J. Cass ’38, Marjorie Swales Cass ’39 and Betty Cass Hersey ’43. Cass’s daughter, Ann, also attended UIU. Cass has been blessed with three children, six grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.
President Duffy and his wife, Sharon, celebrated the birthday milestone with Cass, along with his family, in Los Alamitos.