Remembering Lawrence G. Foster

The 150 members of The Lawrence G. Foster Penn State Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America mourn the loss of Lawrence G. Foster, APR, Fellow PRSA, who died October 18, 2013, at his home in Westfield, New Jersey. He was 88 years old. Mr. Foster was our PRSSA Chapter’s namesake and was a distinguished alumnus of Penn State. He was our PRSSA chapter’s greatest advocate from the founding of our chapter in 1998 until his death. Our chapter will continue to honor his memory and contributions to the field of public relations.

Foster was an integral part of the Penn State Community during his college career and as an alumnus. During his undergraduate career he served as the managing editor of the Daily Collegian and was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. As an alumnus Foster was the 1972 President of the Alumni Association and also served as a University Trustee from 1980-89. His honors included the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1979, along with earning a Lion’s Paw Medal for Service to the University in 1999.

In total Foster dedicated more than fifty years of his life to Penn State volunteer and philanthropic work. In addition to his dedication to Penn State as a whole, Foster made significant contributions to Penn State University’s College of Communications. He was the founder and former chairman of the Advisory Board of the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication within the College of Communications.

Following his time as an undergrad at Penn State, Foster joined the Johnson & Johnson team in 1957 where he worked for 33 years. He created the company’s first public relations department, and eventually became their corporate vice president of public relations. Johnson and Johnson was worth $300 million in 1957, and by the end of Foster’s career in 1990 the company’s worth had risen to $10 billion.

Foster led the renowned response to Johnson and Johnson’s 1982 crisis after seven people died in Chicago after consuming Tylenol laced with cyanide. This led to the recall of 32 million packages of Tylenol, costing the company $125 million dollars. Foster is credited with engineering Johnson & Johnson’s crisis response that allowed the company to emerge from the crisis even stronger than before.

In addition to being named one of the top public relations professionals of the 20th century, Foster received four of the most acclaimed awards in public relations. Those include the 1989 Gold Anvil Award from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the 1998 Atlas Award from PRSA, the Hall of Fame Award from the Arthur W. Page Society in 1994, and the Institute for Public Relations’ Alexander Hamilton Medal in 2007.

Foster was an idol to many aspiring students in the field of communications and public relations. His legacy at Penn State will live on through his contributions to the university and within the field of public relations.

In lieu of flowers contributions can be donated to the Central PA Food Bank, 3908 Corey Road, Harrisburg, PA 17109, or the charity of your choosing.

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