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Pauline Ratner Foster ’55

Pauline defined her life by giving. She donated millions of dollars to a variety of San Diego institutions, especially ones reflecting her passions for education, art, and health care. She served on the boards of numerous community organizations, and was the first woman president of the United Way, the United Jewish Federation, and the Jewish Community Foundation.

“Pauline’s quiet strength and caring support touched the hearts and changed the lives of people throughout our community,” said Hugh Davies, director and CEO of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Her lifelong interest in the arts was reflected at the museum, where she served on the board, funded new galleries, and donated a 25,000-square-foot storage facility for the museum’s collection.

Pauline also made significant contributions of time, vision, and resources to UC San Diego, ensuring excellent cancer care for her fellow San Diegans by giving $7.5 million to establish the Pauline and Stanley Foster Pavilion for Cancer Care. UCSD also benefited from her largesse with a $5 million endowed chair at the Rady School of Management and the establishment of the Foster MBA Fellowship Fund.

Robert Sullivan, dean of the Rady School, said Pauline cared deeply about the students, funding more than 75 fellowships, listening to presentations about their entrepreneurial projects, and attending graduation every year. “Pauline was so interested in the potential and the potential impact of the students,” he said. “She was interested in the work they were doing that would transform lives and communities.”

Her father, Abraham Ratner, built the Ratner Clothing Corp. into the largest manufacturer of men’s clothing west of the Mississippi. Raised in the affluent California community of Kensington, Pauline attended Reed for a year and a half before leaving to marry Stanley E. Foster in 1953. Stanley ran a furniture store and relatives had arranged a blind date with him. After the marriage, he began working for her father’s clothing business, becoming president in 1970. After purchasing the Hang Ten sportswear line for $3 million, he turned it into a $200 million retail juggernaut while Pauline raised their three daughters at the family home in Point Loma.

After selling Hang Ten, Stanley diversified the company into real estate and other investments, and by the 1980s the couple had shifted their attention to community affairs and philanthropy. For Pauline, it was the continuation of a family tradition. “You learned that sharing with other people is very gratifying,” she said.

She served on the boards of the UC San Diego Foundation, the La Jolla Playhouse, the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, and the National Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds. Other major donations went to the Pauline Foster Teen Center at the San Diego Central Library and the Stanley Foster School of Engineering, Innovation and Design at Kearny High. In 1989, Pauline was declared “Woman of the Year” by the California State Legislature, and in 1998 given the United Way’s Alexis de Tocqueville Award to honor her extraordinary leadership and service in the community.

Survivors include her daughters, Marcia Hazin, Lisa Foster, and Karen Silberman.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2016

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