Chapter Eternal: Professor, mentor, and advisor Fred Foss – Winona State

Fred Foss, a respected college professor, mentor and faculty advisor, passed into the Chapter Eternal on December 10, 2023. Fred was a longtime advisor to the Pilam Winona State chapter (MN Kappa Chi) where he was a chemistry professor for more than 40 years.

Popular Professor who touched a lot of lives

Foss received a degree in Chemistry in 1955 at the University of Michigan. After serving in the US Army, he was offered a job as a professor at Winona State University (WSU) where he also met his future wife, Marilyn Mason, and they married in 1957. Foss held advanced degrees in chemistry: an M.S., from University of Minnesota, 1957, and Ph.D., from University of the Pacific, 1965. 

Dr. Foss taught chemistry at WSU from 1957 through 1998, serving as Department Chairperson for twenty-six of those years. Foss was innovative in his teaching methods and well-liked by his students. He taught thirteen different chemistry courses to an estimated 17,000 students during his 41 years of teaching.

Watch his interview on the WSU Living History Project

Foss established a scholarship for WSU students to honor the memory of his wife Marilyn, and show their mutual passion to the WSU community.

Pilam advisor and friend

In 1990, Foss was approached by Pilam brothers Shane Gold and Bob Parteka who asked him to be their advisor. Before he agreed, he wanted to know more about the fraternity. When he learned how Pilam welcomed diversity he said, “Everyone is an individual who is to be respected. I thought, that’s wonderful.”

After two years as faculty advisor and attending every chapter meeting, Foss was made an honorary brother of Pi Lambda Phi. He continued to champion the chapter for many years and thanks to his efforts, Pilam became the first fraternity on campus to acquire a chapter house. Foss was known for dropping by the house to see people and play some pool. He said, “I’m a brother, mainly.”

When he retired from teaching in 1998, the chapter named him “Faculty Advisor Emeritus forever and irrevocably.”

“Dr. Foss was one of the kindest and most generous persons I met during my time at Winona State. My favorite memory of Dr. Foss is the guidance he provided as we were forming the MN KX chapter. He spent many hours with all of us as we started our Pilam journey. Many of us will remember the great times we spent at his houseboat on the Mississippi. He had such a positive influence on so many people’s lives.”

– Jeff Gaida ’90 – MN KX – Alpha Class

Always welcoming to students even in his home life, Foss often invited Pilam brothers and student organizations to gatherings at his boathouse on the Mississippi River. 

“Fred made it a point to be a role model for every young man that walked through Pi Lambda Phi’s doors. He cared deeply about us all growing emotionally and intelligently, and would often follow up to see how we were doing in school, and even was interested in how our lives were going after we would leave college. He wanted to see us all become successful. Fred will be missed deeply, as he was a large part of the man I have become. Brother Mine Forever, Fred.”

– Brandon Hornberg ’09 – MN KX

In 2005, Foss received the Pi Lambda Phi Council Key for his dedicated service to WSU and our Fraternity.