Just call him "Sir."
The government of Finland recently bestowed upon Bob Foster, an adjunct professor at the Anderson School of Management, the honor of Knight, First Class, of the Order of the White Rose of Finland. This is the highest honor the government of Finland can present to a non- Finnish citizen.
Foster received his knighthood Dec. 9 in recognition of his efforts to help Finnish technology companies expand into markets abroad, including the United States, through Anderson's Global Access Program (GAP), which matches a team of students from the Fully Employed MBA (FEMBA) program with international technology companies in 17 countries. Together, they develop a comprehensive business strategy that enables the companies to move to the next stage of their corporate development.
On behalf of the GAP program Foster frequently travels to Finland where he liaisons with officials of TEKES, the Finnish funding agency for technology and innovation, in efforts to recruit companies to participate in GAP.
"Finns know their friends," said Finnish Consul General Kirsti Westphalen at a ceremony and dinner she hosted at her Los Angeles residence attended by Anderson leaders as well as Finnish business executives who had traveled to L.A. to witness the final GAP presentations given on campus.
Tonight, while we are looking at the wonderful achievements of the UCLA GAP program, we want to recognize our friends (and) there is especially one special friend present here," said Westphalen. "At the request of the President of the Republic of Finland, I have the honor to bestow upon (Bob Foster) a very significant recognition: Knight First Class, The Order of White Rose of Finland."
The ceremony was attended by Anderson Dean Judy Olian; Senior Associate Deans Alfred E. Osborne, Jr. and Carla Hayn; Associate Dean Gonzalo Freixes; and Vice Chancellor Emeritus Elwin Svenson, Foster’s close colleague and fellow administrator in GAP. Svenson was given the same honor by the Finnish government in 2004.
"Our Finnish friends know what a prestigious award this is, but to put it into perspective for our American and international friends, this is an award similar to the Presidential Medal of Freedom that the President of the United States bestows for extraordinary achievements," the consul general said. "On behalf of Finland, on behalf of all of us, the 1,000 alumni whom you have fostered into maturity in their businesses, we are truly grateful to you."
"I was at a loss for words, just blown away," said Foster, who was not told he’d be receiving the honor in advance. "I never thought that I would receive the knighthood. It was just an amazing experience. I never had so many pictures taken."
"This is a wonderful and most deserved honor for Bob Foster – now 'Sir Bob’," said Dean Olian. "The knighthood recognizes Bob's trailblazing leadership of the GAP program. It also reflects the high esteem in which GAP is held by Finland and the other nations whose companies participate in this program which achieves such broad economic impact."
Foster says that his most recent honor illustrates the value the Finnish government places on that country’s relationship to UCLA and the Global Access Program. Foster said that in 13 years, there have been 121 Finnish companies participating in GAP out of 420 total who have participated worldwide.
"I consider myself very lucky," said Foster, who was named as one of UCLA Anderson’s 100 Inspirational Alumni in 2010 as part of the school’s 75thanniversary celebration. "We work hard, we do good work and I’m just overwhelmed. It’s a great honor for the school."