Attending his final Masters' Dinner, Annual Meeting, and Masters' Ball as MFHA Executive Director, Dennis Foster shared some reflections on the importance of recognizing one another's contributions in his final address to Masters at their dinner in NYC on January 25. The next evening, at the Ball, Epp Wilson, MFH Belle Meade (GA), delivered a unique toast honoring Foster's 24 years of service to the MFHA.
Foster delivered the following remarks at the Masters' Dinner:
"John Glass, the brilliant clerk and secretary of the MFHA, started his retirement speech to Masters: 'Any of you ever wonder how organized hunts begin? In the beginning there was only one hunt. The Master of that hunt made a joint Master… after time they couldn’t get along so they split into two hunts. That has continued to today now we have 800 masters and 155 hunts.'
"Since this is my last MFHA meeting I hope no one will mind if I make some parting remarks before I say something about President van Nagell.
"Twenty-four years ago I came to this job excited and full of energy. It truly is a one of a kind job… a dream job that became my entire being. In my first speech to you as Masters I told you one of foxhunting’s problems was that 'foxhunters tend to eat their young.'
"What I meant by that is that is we have so many talented and exceptional people who foxhunt…but too often…we do not recognize them for whatever brilliance or accomplishments they bring to this great sport. Occasionally a person will pop up for doing something exceptional, but…if…it happens too often there is a tendency to just ignore it. Even when someone is showcased in an article…be it major or local media, Covertside or the Chronicle of the Horse we seldom acknowledge it or bring it to others' attention. We should be reveling in it, celebrating their success, blowing their horn for them and taking advantage of all the good they have done that reflects onto our sport.
"I believe this to be especially disappointing when someone receives an award and you don’t hear anything about it.
"How many of you…in this room…have had something special written up on you or an award you received and no one bothered to call or let you know they saw or heard about it?
"Tonight is the first time in 24 years I’ve worn my military uniform having completed 26 years as a soldier. It also will be the last time I wear it. I remember years past at a Masters' Dinner, Col. Hugh Sproul asked me why I didn’t wear my awards on my formal foxhunting attire. It is very much appropriate to do so, but completely up the individual. I thought about that and didn’t have an answer, it wasn’t that I wasn’t proud of my accomplishments in the military.
"Personally I’ve received my share of awards. Candidly some I deserved…some I did not…and some I deserved, but no one saw it or acknowledged whatever that horrific deed was, so nothing came of it. In fact the most courageous thing I ever did in the military was never acknowledged. So where am I going with this?
"Awards are great, but mean very little if others don’t know about it...especially the people important to you. An award in the mail means next to nothing, an award handed to you in a setting with no one else there…the same…but an acknowledgement in front of friends and others can make it an unforgettable moment in a person’s life. When others make a big deal of it…or just congratulate you, it’s the frosting on the cake. I once told one of my sons who tended to brag about his accomplishments, 'The mark of a man is not what he says about himself, it is what others say about him.'"
Epp Wilson slightly embellished Mrs. Pinkie Knox's traditional Belle Meade toast to honor Foster, and shared it from the band's stage during the lively Masters' Ball:
Foxhunting Toast to Dennis Foster
It’s the grandest sport and the greatest thrill,
To chase the fox from hill to hill.
Through countryside rolling o’er fields and streams,
It’s the kind of a course that fulfills sportsmen’s dreams.
Mr. Foster impatiently rides to and fro
Then rides like the wind at the cry “Tally Ho!”
Fargone is lathered. He too seems to sense
The joy and excitement of clearing a fence.
So here at the close of a wonderful day
Of foxhunting and fellowship, may I tribute pay
To the Man, Dennis Foster, who with Laura’s assistance
Makes it hard for the fox to put up much resistance.
You join in the chase, though you may take a spill
And you keep coming back be it sunny or chill.
To this fun loving, gutsy guy riding to hounds,
Our toasts and our praises to you know no bounds.
Tonight with the stirrup cup full and o’erflowing
We toast you for helping keep foxhunting going!