UMF president on death hoax: ‘I simply want to provide the assurance of my presence’

Posted March 24, 2014, at 8:50 p.m.
University of Maine at Farmington President Kathryn A. Foster.
Contributed photo
University of Maine at Farmington President Kathryn A. Foster.

FARMINGTON, Maine — A hoax email sent Monday evening to University of Maine Farmington students and staff claimed the university’s president, Kathryn Foster, had died at her home Monday afternoon. In fact, Foster was alive and well in Machias, conducting university business at the University of Maine System’s Board of Trustees two-day meeting.

The email, sent at 5:07 p.m., purported to be from Robert Lively Jr., associate provost.

“Dear All: I am very sorry to inform you that Kathryn A. Foster, UMF’s recently inaugurated President, very suddenly and unexpectedly suffered a stroke and passed away late this afternoon at her home in Farmington,” the email read. “Kathryn was a beloved leader, an accomplished scholar, and a warm, generous, friendly soul. She will be sorely missed by her students, her colleagues, and the entire UMF community.”

It was signed Robert L. Lively, Jr., interim president. He remains associate provost. The email included a link to a website where students and staff could leave their condolences, but it actually led to a pornagraphic website.

Daniel P. Gunn, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, followed up 40 minutes later with a campuswide email of his own:

“President Foster has been at the Board of Trustees meeting in Machias all day,” he wrote. “If anything had happened to her, someone would have called UMF, and we have received no such call. We have been attempting to communicate with her since the email arrived, but she is en route from Machias and currently unreachable. We will ask her to write an email to the student and staff lists as soon as we can reach her.”

He warned readers to not click the link in the hoax email.

About two hours later, Foster returned home from Machias.

“I have now been told of the events of recent hours here in Farmington, notably that someone acting with exceptional disregard for our community sent a damaging email message under Associate Provost Rob Lively’s name to the UMF Student listserv,” Foster wrote in her own email to students. “We are actively pursuing information about this appalling act.

“In the meantime, I write to tell you that I am fine, though deeply saddened that our community has been subjected to this fraud. This evening I shall respond in person to the kind outpouring of concern sent my way, but for now I simply want to provide the assurance of my presence.”

Attempts to contact UMF officials Monday night were not successful.

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