Foster S. Friess’ life and career are a testament to the promise of America — the promise that anyone, regardless of background or circumstances, can achieve success in this country. During a career that spanned more than five decades, Foster became a legend in both business and politics for his acumen, his wit, his generosity and his dedication to his principles. That legend passed away Thursday, May 27, 2021.
Though our words can do little to ease his family’s heartache or the loss felt by his close friends, we feel they are necessary as a small token of repayment to celebrate a life so dedicated to serving others.
Foster was born in 1940 and raised in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, a town of a little more than 5,000 people. He came from humble means — his mother dropped out of school in the eighth grade to help pick cotton on her family’s struggling Texas farm, and his father dealt in cattle and horses.
He became a basketball star and valedictorian of his class at Rice Lake High School. He attended the University of Wisconsin, where he majored in business administration and met his wife, Lynnette.
After serving in the military, Foster began his investment career with just $800 leave pay in his pocket. He worked at Brittingham, Inc. before he founded his own firm, Friess Associates, in 1974. The firm’s premier fund, the Brandywine Fund, experienced yearly gains of 20% in the 1990s, and Foster was lauded as one of the “century’s great investors.” Foster’s business success eventually made him a billionaire in 2020.
Though Foster is well known for his meteoric rise in the business world, his true legacy may be found in his enormous generosity.
He ultimately gave over $500 million to charitable causes and won the Humanitarian of the Year in 2000. A few of the causes Foster and his wife supported over the years included supporting families of disabled children in Wyoming, helping provide safe drinking water to third world countries and assisting victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Sri Lanka tsunami and the Haitian earthquake.
He also supported various conservative projects, including the Daily Caller and TurningPoint USA. President Donald Trump, former Republican Ohio Sen. Jim DeMint and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows presented Foster with the Conservative Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.
When those who knew him spoke about Foster, they universally praised his generous spirit and his desire to help others.
“Foster Friess was an amazing person. His mission in life was to give back to the country that did so much for him. He was a true Christian with love in his heart,” Daily Caller co-founder Neil Patel said. “He helped us start the Daily Caller and we could never have imagined a better partner or friend. Once you met Foster, he immersed you in Foster world. That’s a world full of love and kindness. We will never forget him.”
“Foster was the most generous person I’ve ever met, and also one of the funniest. It’s hard to think of better qualities. What a wonderful man,” Daily Caller co-founder Tucker Carlson added.
“Foster was an incredible friend. He was someone who was just as generous and caring in supporting the people he knew. You could become Foster’s friend very quickly. He had more friends than anyone I’ve ever known. He was generous to the person he had been friends with for twenty years and the person he met an hour ago,” former Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said.
Though he was a giant in the world of conservative politics, Foster emphasized unity and made every effort to reach across the aisle, earning the respect and friendship of those who may have disagreed with him politically.
“He was someone who is a giant who will be missed by people on both sides of the aisle. He and Harry Reid had a very good relationship. He saw me and Van Jones on TV and said, ‘Wow I’d really like to get to know Van,'” Santorum said.
“He really wanted to show that people on the other side weren’t evil, that they really wanted what’s best for America and just disagreed on the solution,” he added.
Former Democratic Nevada Sen. Harry Reid concurred, citing his friendship with Foster as proof that people could be friends despite political differences.
“The friendship between myself and Foster Friess shows that people who are different politically can be the best of friends, which we were. He had many strong traits, but his number one trait was his generosity,” Reid said.
Foster promoted his annual National Coffee Challenge, which encouraged people to return to civility by taking a coffee break with someone that they disagree with politically to discuss topics in a casual and friendly setting.
He launched Foster’s Outriders in 2018 to work with Independents, Democrats and Republicans on common issues as well as promote the principles of free enterprise, limited constitutional government, fiscal responsibility and traditional American values.
Part of Foster’s interest in politics stemmed from his steadfast belief in the power of free enterprise to allow people to achieve their dreams, and he wanted to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to achieve the same success he had.
Foster’s Outriders supports ACE Scholarships, which enable low-income students to attend private schools of their parents’ choice.
“He invested in people. He was an investor, but he invested in people rather than things. I think he took that lesson from being one of the most successful investors of his time,” Santorum said.
“He invested in people he thought would fight for the principles that made this country great, that allowed someone from his background to become a billionaire. His passion was to make that available for future generations, and he was always looking for people who he thought were special and he invested in them to help their dream come true.”
“The only thing bigger than Foster’s cowboy hat was the size of his heart, which had a passion and compassion for his fellow man. Foster’s willingness to humbly serve his community and his country was evident at every turn,” Mark Meadows said.
“In the difficult days when he struggled with health issues, I called a number of times to encourage him, and each and every time I found that it was Foster trying to encourage me. Joking and encouraging and applauding efforts that would reach the people that sometimes are deemed unreachable. Even during his health issues, he was pushing to reach the downtrodden and disenfranchised. Foster’s Outriders will leave a lasting legacy of a race that has been run well.”
Perhaps the only thing Foster was more dedicated to than his passion for serving others was his faith in his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
He was inspired to pursue his philanthropic efforts by Galatians 6:2 — “Carry one another’s burdens, in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” and many of his other pursuits, such as Foster’s Outriders, were inspired by the Bible’s teachings. He especially emphasized the need for redemption and love in modern society to fight against divisiveness.
“Foster’s Outriders is enamored with Thomas Jefferson’s view, ‘Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern which have come under my observation, none appears to me so pure as that of Jesus,'” Foster wrote.
“What did Thomas Jefferson, who was not a Christian, see in those teachings that captured his appreciation? Always consider other people more important than yourself. We’ve been set free to serve. Never return evil for evil. Strive for servanthood, not power. Be an encourager, not a denigrator.”
Foster was dedicated to his God, his country and his community. Truly a man who strove to unite people through mutual understanding, Foster was one of a kind and will be sorely missed by all who knew him. We are comforted, however, by the knowledge that he will live on through the charitable programs he founded and the lives he touched.
With heavy hearts, we say goodbye to a great American, but more importantly, we say goodbye to a friend.