Bob Foster stepping down from Alma Advocacy Association

Dear Alma Advocacy Association,
I will be standing by my original decision,and leaving the Alma Advocacy Association,effective immediately.I failed to mention in my earlier letter,what an honor this whole process has been for me.

First I was privileged to meet Dawn Doty,who never waivered in her dedication to Alma College,then I met Suzanne van Bommel,who came on the eleventh hour,and secured a 60 day stop work order,for Alma College,with help from the premier’s office,which alone is a feat unmatched during this whole ordeal,then as if that weren’t enough,I met Speaker Steve Peters,probably the most prominent politician,I will ever meet,and he was every bit the gentleman,not only taking time to listen to my concerns,but he responded on two occasions by mail,which meant even more,because he wrote “Hi Bob”,in the margin of one of those letters,which gave it that “personal touch of class”,then the icing on this already incredible cake,was meeting Lara Leitch,the former vice-principal of beautiful & historic Alma College,which for me,was like meeting her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,so majestic and elegant,just the calibre of person you would expect,to be walking the halls,of Alma College.So to say this journey was very special,would be an understatement.I have met some very special people,who will no doubt be in my heart,for the rest of my life.Alma College was magical,and on April 24,2008 I was lucky enough to see Alma,for the first and only time,but like I’ve said on many occasions,standing on the front steps,on that warm April afternoon,is a feeling unmatched to this day,and I’m very glad I made the trip,to see this beauty,that I’m sure will not be matched in my lifetime.Walking on the grounds was very peaceful,and I vowed to myself as I looked up at her many broken and boarded up windows,that I would do what I ever I possibly could,to keep her standing.All of you were kind enough to let me be a part of this awesome journey,which brought out a passion in me,that I’ve never felt before,because I’ve always loved historical buildings,but Alma grabbed a hold of my heart strings,and opened a door inside of me,that just gave me an energy,that was very powerful.We came very close to saving Alma,and today we should be watching them renovate Alma College,but instead we are fighting to get them to enforce the “minimum property standards”,which seems easy enough,but they’re still reluctant to do even the basics,to protect what remains.I can’t imagine any one of them,(especially Aileen Carroll),suddenly having a change of heart,and falling in love with 96 Moore Street,as all of us have.I may be a man,but I don’t have a problem with saying “I loved Alma College”,and if you were going to fall in love with a building,this would definitely be the one.I hope you will continue the fight,but if this minister will not budge to designate the property,after all the efforts to date,I fear she will never have a change of heart,which saddens me,because as I “thumb” through the Alma history book,I see all those smiling faces,and Alma College is standing proudly in the background,of many of those photo’s,and all I can think of,is how 130 years later,we lost the main structure in a horrific fire,and now we are fighting tooth and nail,to save the 2 remaining buildings,but the people in charge,do not have the same passion,and if they don’t have the passion,we don’t stand a chance.So believe me when I say,I have a heavy heart as I write this letter,because I’ve never given up before,but Minister Carroll has the power to save what remains,but has no intentions of doing the right thing,so just forgetting I ever heard the name Aileen Carroll,is the best way to retain my sanity,but I expect so long as Aileen Carroll is Culture Minister,dust clouds will fill the skyline of many a city,in Ontario,as historical buildings continue to fall,on her watch.

Bob Foster


8 thoughts on “Bob Foster stepping down from Alma Advocacy Association

  1. It’s a real shame that Bob Foster has decided to step down.I like many others fought along side him,Dawn Doty,Suzanne van Bommel and many others whos only goal was to save the college from the wrecking ball.I remember the day Bob called to ask me to invite all my friends to join a group on facebook,dedicated to bringing awareness to the damage and neglect that was happening,right here in St.Thomas.I had always been aware of the saga,but it seemed to really come alive late in 2007 when it was reported the wrecking ball was very close,and so we all started to gather signatures for the petition and we really became a team.Im very proud of the people in St.Thomas,and Im proud to call this my hometown.I would like to thank Bob for his tireless efforts on behalf of my hometown,and hope he will still visit us here.I will miss his e-mails,which arrived without fail on a daily basis,highlighting the fight to save 96 Moore Street,and I learned that alma college not only touched everyone here,it reached out and touched people far and wide,and thats what made her so special.

    Jamie Summers

  2. I would ask that Bob Foster reconsider his decision to leave the Alma Advocacy Association.I was reading in the TJ that this group has been created to find new areas in which to explore for 96 Moore Street.I was under the impression the property was all but forgotten,but was pleasantly surprised to discover that people were still fighting for the chapel and the music building.I take my early morning walks by the property,and even though alma is gone,I can imagine this property being a big part of St.Thomas again,should a solid plan be put forward.We need heritage advocates to fight for these historic sites,because small towns like ours cannot go it alone,and financially it can only be accomplished with the help of the provincial and federal governments.I hope the residents will rally once more ,because we need to draw on our strengths here in St.Thomas,and there is 10 acres just sitting and waiting to be re-discovered.

    William T.Snow

  3. In may of this year I was in grade 12 just finishing up my school year,when a friend of mine invited me to join a group on facebook for alma college.At first i thought it was just another group that was started for the college,but wouldnt really be able to help save the building.I decided to join anyways and i watched the group grow from 250 members to over 1600 members.The reason i mention the group is,Bob Foster took over the group early on,updating it on a daily basis,and sending e-mails to members with the locations of the petition that was in businesses in and around St.Thomas.I contacted Bob by e-mail asking for a copy of the petition,so i could gather signatures at my high school,and within hours i had a copy of the petition and managed to get 200 signatures during my lunch break at school.Young people get a bad rap for not caring about the things that are going on in our city,but when Bob responded to my e-mail,he also wrote that young people have a powerful voice,and that we should make our voices heard,if we want to make a difference,that comment really stuck with me,so I decided to help with the petition drive and it felt good to know i was helping the cause.I was also reading in the times journal about the alma advocacy association,and would like more information about the group.i think if we all get together we could find a use for the college grounds that would help our city and make great use of this area of st.thomas.

    Paul Pacheco
    City of St.Thomas,Ont

  4. As a long time resident of London,Ontario who has relatives in St.Thomas,I can assure Mr.Foster that we are indeed grateful to him,and all those people who helped on behalf of Alma College.We sometimes take for granted the beauty that surrounds us,and this was the case with Alma College.We were positive this building would always tower over the city,until one day a fire brought the “castle” to the ground.I happened to be in St.Thomas the afternoon of May 28th,and it was gut wrenching to watch the college go down so tragically.and to know that it may have been set intentionally,makes it all the more hard to accept.St.Thomas city council needs the financial assistance of both levels of government if they are expected to protect historic buildings,however we cant give the mayor and city council a pass for not enforcing the existing laws,which ensures basic maintenance,and from all accounts this did not occur at Alma College for many years.Alma College is still a topic of discussion around the dinner table and the city has 10+ acres that could be rebuilt on,and since the chapel and the music building are in fairly good shape,they could be incorporated into any new development.Like they say, “if you can dream it,you can do it”,and I believe this is the case with this property.As a businessman in the community,I would also like to hear more about the Alma Advocacy Association,and if they accept financial donations.Organizations that are trying to protect heritage sites,need financial assistance to do so,and I would be glad to help in their efforts.

    David Belkin

  5. As a heritage advocate myself,I understand the frustration Mr.Foster is feeling,because dealing with our provincial government is frustrating to put it mildly.We have been fighting to try and save the Erie Street church,in Ridgetown,Ontario and Culture Minister Aileen Carroll has again turned her back on a historical building,worthy of heritage designation.The church could be restored and used for many more years,but this minister has already slammed the door shut,on that idea,and given the go ahead for the wrecking ball,to do her dirty work.We are losing historical buildings at an alarming rate,and our minister of culture,just signs on the dotted line,allowing our heritage to disappear.I would hope that at some point in time,Premier McGuinty will realize Aileen Carroll has been badly neglecting her duties,and replace her.We cannot afford to lose our built heritage,and to make matters worse,the provincial government is on a 9 week christmas vacation,so if you thought it was hard to get a response before,chances are this minister will be on a beach in Hawaii,as the wrecking ball roams the city streets,looking for it’s next victim.Sad time for Ontario’s built heritage,and as long as this minister is at the helm,things will get worse,before they get better,if ever.

    Michael Quartz (Heritage Advocate)

  6. As a person who travels between St.Thomas and Florida,I have to say the Alma story has even been a topic of discussion here in Miami,where me and my wife have a home we reside at during the canadian winter months.We keep updated regularly through the internet and e-mails from our friends in St.Thomas.We met a couple in our retirement complex who were very familiar with Alma College,because the mother of our male friend attended the college way back when.They even had some photographs of the college from the early days,when the steeple had the famous birdnest,and the chapel had yet to be built or the music building.We are so very proud of the residents of St.Thomas,and have been proud homeowners for over 30 years,but getting on in years we decided to go between St.Thomas and Miami,spending our summers in St.Thomas.I hope they can do something constructive with the land,as the history of 96 Moore Street stretches back to the late 1800’s.I was reading Mr.Belkins comments above,regarding financial donations to the Alma Advocacy Association,and I to am interested in making a contribution to this organisation.I am in the process of getting a new e-mail address,and I will forward it to Mr.McCallum,so he can put me in touch with the members of the Alma group,I would like to contribute money to help this cause,as it is near and dear to our hearts.It’s amazing that 130 years later,Alma is still in the headlines,just a sign of how very special the college was.

    Lloyd Beeston

  7. There have been a number of posts inquiring about the Alma Advocacy Association. I am president of the association. People interested in further information may contact me directly at or 519-200-6700

    Suzanne van Bommel
    Belmont, Ontario

  8. I would like to thank the people who have responded,here on Ian’s City Scope blog,and also the people who have written to me,through my personal e-mail.Your words are very kind,but the credit is to be given to all those people who stood up for Alma College.We were a team,and it was fought as a team,no individual can take full credit,for the all the accomplishments,because every person played a vital role.One of the inspirations for me personally,was the many young people who contacted me through facebook,wanting to help with gathering signatures,back in early May,it gave me the energy,to keep on with the fight.The Alma Advocacy Association was created to bring awareness to the property,because 2 buildings still stand on the grounds,as well as the outdoor amphi-theatre,and all need urgent protection.I can envision a day when 96 Moore Street,will be alive with the sound of laughter,and once again St.Thomas will have a special place,right in the heart of their city.I stepped down because of the frustration,dealing with the political process,and its a game I dont like to play.I’ve always believed in the “commom sense” way of getting things done,and 96 Moore Street dictates, the “common sense” thing to do, would be to restore the remaining structures,and the amphi-theatre,re-build the college exactly as it stood before,and honor the property for its 130 years of service,by designating the property as provincially significant.However it all looks good written down,but Aileen Carroll, our Culture Minister seems to believe,since the main structure is gone,so with it goes any passion for the property,which is the opposite of what has occured.The property means even more now that the main structure is gone,because if we allow whats left to disappear,we also allow the Alma College legacy to disappear,and that will not be allowed to happen…

    Bob Foster

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