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Teddy Foster: A Passion for Preservation

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Teddy Foster, Campaign Director for Universal Preservation Hall, or UPH, believes in the idea that the more positive energy you put out there, the more you will get back in return. This self-awareness is helping her attract the right strategic partners for the future of UPH.  

Universal Preservation Hall is a historic venue for performing arts, cultural education and community events in Saratoga Springs, New York. It was a former Methodist church built in 1871 and will soon be transformed from a 19th century High Victorian Gothic church to a state-of-the-art performance facility. 

“UPH is on the threshold of becoming a year-round cultural venue for the performing arts and community events right in the heart of downtown Saratoga Springs,” exclaimed Teddy. “Our city is a destination resort thanks to the history, the healing spring waters, Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Caffe Lena, proximity to the Adirondack Mountains and much more. Saratoga has never had a year-round, downtown cultural center, which has been needed for years.”

Community Asset
“When UPH opens, it will fill that gap and become the community’s living room. It will be the place where people will come together for all different kinds of things, all year round, not just seasonally,” she continued. According to Teddy, as part of a vibrant Capital region creative economy, UPH will ensure that the long-term economy of Saratoga Springs and the surrounding region will be healthy for years to come. “With a state-of-the-art, 700-seat theater in the round, it’s anticipated that UPH will have 200-plus nights of programming and attract an additional 65,000 people annually. This will be a huge boost to retail shops, restaurants and hotels throughout the Capital Region all year.” 

As life sometimes does, the past planted Teddy in line for her future, which is now. When her children were growing up, she was involved with many charitable organizations and enjoyed it. Her professional life took her away from Saratoga for a few years and upon her return in 2006, she wanted to get involved in the community again. She joined the board of UPH. 

Solid Volunteerism
With the UPH-Proctors affiliation announcement in 2015, she resigned from the board and was hired as the campaign director for the $5.5 million capital campaign to complete the restoration of the building. “Before I was offered the job as campaign director for UPH, I had worked for Genworth Financial and was laid off in 2009 due to the recession. My timeline with UPH was from board member to board president to staff. 

“My transition from working in the corporate world to working for a nonprofit organization was a challenge. I liked being a volunteer but I had no paycheck coming in! To solve that problem, I started a small business as a health coach and called it Foster Good Health. That fun, little business allowed me to have some income and help clients as well as do meaningful work for UPH.” Teddy’s positive attitude, problem-solving skills and her “failure is not an option” attitude was working! 

Teddy admits that she found inspiration from The Secret, a book by Rhonda Byrne. The accompanying workbook, The Magic, became her primer in learning how to open her mind to attracting positive things to her life. She keeps a daily gratitude journal and believes this literally has changed her life. “When I focus on my intention and put it out into the universe, things happen very positively,” she affirmed.

A Name, A Gift
Teddy, whose real name is Dorothy, Theodora in the Russian language, received the nickname Teddy in college, and it stuck. She loves it. A native New Yorker, she grew up in Fishkill, New York. Her father, George Foster, was the town banker at the Fishkill National Bank, her family’s bank. Her mother, Adele, was a stay-at-home mom for Teddy and her younger sister, Gigi. 

“I’ve always been an overachiever. My mother was an alcoholic and unable to function for days at a time. As the oldest child, I was thrust into the role of the hero of the dysfunctional family, trying to keep the family functioning as normally as possible. I excelled in school, had many friends, did all my chores at home and tried to help my father and sister keep our family situation a secret from everyone,” she mused. “I was a teenager and I guess I hoped that if I could do my best at everything, it would be enough to make my mom quit drinking. That strategy didn’t work. In the long run, I’ve turned that determination into one of my best assets, using my tenaciousness to advance a worthy goal.” 

She graduated from high school in 1969. During high school, she found her knack for languages, and when they offered Russian and Latin, she took them both and loved them. She studied Russian throughout high school and for three years at Hartwick College, traveling to Russia with a group of exchange students for a month. She left college after the third year to get married, which unfortunately ended in divorce three years later. 

Building Skills
Twenty-five years after leaving Hartwick, she finished her education at Skidmore College in the University Without Walls program. She had always felt something was missing without having completed her degree; she went back to school at 40 and earned a bachelor of arts degree in business. “I received a wonderful education at Skidmore. Although I was divorced from my second husband shortly afterward, I still believe that going back to school was one of the best decisions of my life. I truly believe it gave me the skills to navigate a career path that garnered me a great job with GE Financial. 

“I had a 12-year career working for GE companies in the financial services division. The last company I worked at was Genworth Financial. I was promoted to the position of national training director and relocated to Richmond, Virginia, for several years,” she related. “My final job with Genworth was in 2006 as an executive marketing coach for their Top 100 insurance producers, and I worked remotely from my home in Saratoga. My financial services career with Genworth ended in 2009 when the recession hit the country; Genworth laid off 1,000 employees permanently, including me. In the metamorphosis of my life, I was devastated by the layoff and had no idea of what I would do next.” 

Over the years, UPH had operated as a seasonal venue due to its lack of heat, air conditioning and elevator. It was used as a venue for fundraising events, weddings, corporate and community rentals and private parties. The financial support from the community was invaluable in keeping the doors open. Teddy, the passionate ambassador for UPH, explained, “I refused to give up the dreams of all UPH could be for the people of Saratoga and the surrounding region, nor waste the donations that had been given in the early phase to salvage and stabilize the building. And so I used the sales and marketing skills that I had been teaching to independent insurance agents in the corporate world.” 

Approaching the Finish Line
“I educated people about the importance of UPH, gave hundreds of tours of the building, networked like a maniac, did many speaking gigs, and did it all for years. I never stopped. People finally came to believe me and, most importantly, they helped me by joining the UPH board, volunteering to work fundraising events, and becoming donors and sponsors. It has been quite an uphill journey and all completely worth it,” she affirmed. “I love UPH because it has been a big part of my life since 2006. When I first became associated with it, I didn’t love the building because it was a massive wreck! But as I got more and more involved in its future, I became a passionate preservationist and fell in love. Saving a building is truly meaningful work and that’s important to me.”

Teddy’s two sons live and work locally. The older, Eric, is in the insurance business, and Brian is a chef at a local restaurant. “I am inspired daily by my two sons. They amaze me,” she exclaimed. “I gain inspiration from our conversations and watching them grow into really good men who are kind, caring and smartly navigating the paths of their lives. They motivate me to want to do all I can to make the world a better place for them and their future families.”

Teddy is a life-long equestrian who adores horses and equine sports. She plays the piano and takes lessons from Chuck Lamb, the highly regarded jazz pianist for the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, who perform at UPH. She also loves sailing, which she admits she’s pretty good at, and golfing, which she’s not. She serves on the board of Leadership Saratoga and the Women@Work Board of the Albany Times Union.

Teddy’s advises others desiring to lead their communities to be genuine and sincere in their intentions. “Find a not-for-profit organization you like and become involved; it will help your community. Be reliable and always follow through on everything you say you will do. Consider enrolling in a program such as Leadership Saratoga to learn the important skills needed to effectively lead an organization or group. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help; you don’t have to do it all by yourself. 

“I am so grateful for the life I am living, surrounded by loving family and friends and doing really good work. I’m certain it’s because I am loving, positive and have an attitude of gratitude. It took me a while but I finally figured out if I think the worst of people, I get the worst, but if I think the best, I get the best of them. It’s a different spin but it works every time,” Teddy smiled. “Life is too short for a bad attitude.”

Regional Alliance
UPH is now part of the Proctors Collaborative, an umbrella formed from the desire to connect our community. This new brand encompasses Proctors, Capital Repertory Theatre, also known as the Rep, and Universal Preservation Hall as well as other subsidiaries including the School of the Performing Arts at Proctors, Marquee Power and Open Stage Media. It exemplifies collaboration at its finest.

Philip Morris, CEO of Proctors since 2005, has been a force in the Capital Region’s creative economy. “The Proctors Collaborative evolved from the regional nature of our mission and from day-to-day work we do in education, in theatrical and musical production and administrative support like our regional ticketing services,” he explained. “The Collaborative means a larger pool of shared knowledge, shared resources and coordinated activities. The Capital Region is a suburb surrounded by cities, rather than a city surrounded by suburbs. The Collaborative is one of those links tying the cities together.”

UPH is in the all-important final stretch of a $5.5 million Road to Opening Night capital campaign. Teddy and UPH’s operations manager, Mary Beth McGarrahan, are proud to say they are only about $300,000 from that goal and have kicked off a public campaign to accomplish it. The contractor, Bonacio Construction Company, has started work on the building. A Grand Opening Night is anticipated in February 2020.

Universal Preservation Hall is located at 25 Washington Street, Saratoga Springs, New York. If you would like more information about how to contribute to UPH or Proctors, please contact or To learn more about the Proctors Collaborative and the subsidiaries mentioned, please visit