Dozens of people gathered on Bascom Hill Sunday for a sunset vigil organized by the Gamma Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. to celebrate the life and legacy of Darrell Foster.
Foster, 22, passed away on July 2 from complications related to a medical procedure, according to his fraternity brother Vershawn Hansen. He was remembered by his fellow peers, scholars and fraternity brothers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a person who could easily put others at ease and bring out the best in anyone.
Hailing from Washington D.C., Foster attended UW-Madison as a Posse Scholar. He graduated with a B.S. in biology and a certificate in Art Studio and worked as a kindergarten biology teacher. He was in the process of studying for the MCAT and applying for medical school in hopes of becoming a plastic surgeon, fraternity brothers said. He crossed into Alpha Phi Alpha in the spring of 2019.
At Sunday’s vigil, Foster’s classmates, friends and fraternity brothers commemorated his life by sharing memories, writing messages to send to Foster’s family back in D.C., lighting candles and releasing gold, black and white balloons into the sky.
UW Posse Director Emilie Hofacker noted the impact of Fosters’ passing within the program and how it will honor him in the near future.
“We will be holding a 20th year Posse anniversary celebration in October and we will be doing a tribute to Darrell,” Hofacker said. “His greatness will forever impact Posse.”
The death came as a shock to many and “another blow” for the brothers of Gamma Epsilon — the February murder of UW-Whitewater graduate and Zeta Iota Chapter President Purcell Pearson, and the June 2020 death of Bella Sobah, the sister of Foster’s line brother Elias Sobah — have afflicted this fraternity and the wider community of the National Pan-Hellenic Council at UW-Madison.
“The last 18 months have been tough, but I feel like that’s what makes us stronger,” Foster’s line brother Amadou Daff said. “As Black men, we do endure a lot, but it’s very important to know that our community supports us. We do have a lot of people in our corner.”
Daff said that Foster’s memory will be incorporated into Gamma Epsilon’s programming for the chapter’s 75th anniversary at UW-Madison this fall.
According to Foster’s line brothers, the community turnout for Foster at Sunday’s vigil reflects his wide impact and influence even outside those circles.
Along with Alpha Phi Alpha and Posse, Foster took part in the AHANA MAPS Pre-Health Society and InterCultural Dialogues at UW-Madison. Foster was noted for his artistic abilities, cooking talent and impeccable sense of style, often identified by his peacoat on campus, vigil attendees said.
Matthew McAllister, Foster’s roommate of two years at UW-Madison, remembered that they played in lacrosse games against each other in high school. Later, the two met through Posse at UW-Madison. McAllister said that he will remember their conversations that stretched into the pre-dawn hours and the arguments that always faded fast.
“He’s my best friend. He was supposed to be my best man at my wedding, I was supposed to be his,” McAllister said.
Through the pain of the loss, those who loved and admired Foster are now supporting one another by holding onto the memories they have of him.
Vigils for Foster will be held in the D.C. area later this month, and the funeral will be on July 31. To donate to the memorial fund organized by fraternity brothers, friends and relatives of Foster, visit this link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/memorial-fund-for-darrell-foster
Managing Editor Robin Robinson contributed to this story.
A previous version of this story said that Foster received a B.S. in biology and psychology. We have since corrected it to say he received a B.S. in biology and a certificate in Art Studio.
A previous version of this story said that Foster passed away from complications sustained during surgery. We have since corrected the passage to say he passed away from complications related to a medical procedure and attributed this statement.
We sincerely regret these errors.