Renowned investor Foster Friess works to encourage private sector solutions to improve the lives of others
Born in Rice Lake, Wisconsin in 1940, Foster Friess is a first-generation college graduate. His mother dropped out of school in the eighth grade to pick cotton in order to save the family farm in Texas. His father dealt cattle and horses.
At Rice Lake High School, Foster says, “I was valedictorian, class president, student council president, and captain of the basketball, track, golf and baseball teams—all the things that are possible when only 16 kids are in your class!” he says with a wry smile before admitting that there were, in fact, 160.
At the University of Wisconsin, Foster earned a degree in business administration, served as president of his fraternity, was named one of the “ten most outstanding senior men,” and won the heart of “Badger Beauty” and Chi Omega president Lynnette Estes, whom he married in 1962. Two sons, two daughters, and thirteen grandchildren followed.
Lacking enthusiasm about the prospects of being drafted as a private first class foot soldier, Foster enrolled in the Reserves Officer Training Corp at the University of Wisconsin. He trained as an Infantry Platoon Leader and served as an Intelligence Officer for the First Guided Missile Brigade in El Paso, TX.
In 1974, Foster and Lynn launched Friess Associates. The firm’s flagship, the Brandywine Fund, averaged 20 percent annual gains in the 1990s, causing Forbes magazine to name it one of the decade’s top mutual funds. Business Week heralded him as the “longest surviving successful growth stock picker” and CNBC’s Ron Insana dubbed him one of the “century’s great investors.”
Amidst this professional success, Foster says that his personal life struggled. Behind the scenes, he had “a marriage flirting with divorce and emotionally distant children.” Facing these challenges and bored with his success, he was receptive to Blaise Pascal’s notion: “Within each person is a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill.”
In October of 1978, Foster says, “I did one of those ‘born again’ things and invited Jesus to become the ‘Chairman of the Board; of my life,” a decision to which he credits all subsequent successes, including those which saw the firm grow to a $15 billion portfolio and his personal relationships restored.
Foster has devoted significant resources to philanthropy. In 1999, the “Champ” himself awarded Foster the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award, and in 2000, at the National Charity Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C., Foster was named the “Humanitarian of the Year,” following in the footsteps of Coretta Scott King, Bob Hope, President George H.W. Bush, and Lady Bird Johnson. In 2009, Foster received the “Benefactor of the Year” Paul Weyrich Award. In 2010, he received the “Spirit of the Children Award,” given annually to Childhelp supporters who have generously given their time and good fortune to children’s causes.
Lynn and Foster gain their philanthropic inspiration from Galatians 6:2: “When we carry one another’s burdens we fulfill the law of Christ,” and Matthew 25:35-40, “When you do it for the least of my brethren, you do it for Me.” From supporting families of disabled children in Jackson, Wyoming, to assisting victims of Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian earthquake, Lynn and Foster engage in a wide scope of philanthropic activities.
Foster believes that private individuals are called to carry others’ burdens–rather than relying on the government to do so. In 1997, Foster told the organizers of the Grand Teton Musical Festival he would give them $40,000 if they refused $11,000 in government funding. They took him up on his offer.
As a top priority, Foster helps peaceful Muslims transcend the seventh-century ideology of coercion, intimidation, and violence that threatens us and them.
“This is the most threatening movement in the world today,” says Foster. “In fact, due to the growing numbers of teenage and pre-adolescent Muslims that are being recruited and trained in its anti-American ideology on a daily and weekly basis, this threat to our western way of life is more powerful than Nazism or even Communism ever was in the 1900s.”
Foster is also interested in “augmenting the news” to make it more informative and fair, and he is the major investor in the Daily Caller news website led by Tucker Carlson.
Through his web presence at FosterFriess.com and his Campfire Blog, Foster works to promote the Founding Father principles of free enterprise, limited constitutional government, fiscal responsibility, and traditional American values. He believes we can find effective, innovative private sector solutions to many of the problems we face.