Lawrence (Larry) G. Foster served as PRSA professional advisor to the Penn State PRSSA Chapter from 1999 to 2013. The chapter was named to honor his outstanding contributions to the public relations professionals. The author of Robert Wood Johnson: The Gentleman Rebel (Lillian Press), Mr. Foster joined Johnson & Johnson in 1957 to help form its first public relations department, which he led for twenty-five years as director and then as corporate vice president of public relations.
Foster was part of the team that managed Johnson & Johnson’s widely acclaimed response to the Tylenol® murders in 1982 and 1986, when eight people died after ingesting capsules that had been laced with cyanide. The company put the public interest first, in keeping with its Credo written by Robert Wood Johnson in 1943. “To this day, the Tylenol® crisis is referred to both within and outside the PR community alike, as a model in crisis communications management,” according to PRWeek magazine, which named Foster one of the 10 most Influential PR People of the 20th Century. “The company’s reputation could have been dealt an even more severe blow if not for the cool professionalism Foster displayed in managing its crisis communications and efforts to regain the public trust.”
Foster’s numerous awards include the 1989 Gold Anvil Award from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for outstanding contributions to the public relations profession, the 1988 Atlas Award from PRSA for lifetime achievement in international public relations and the 1994 Hall of Fame Award from the Arthur W. Page Society. He was president of the Page Society from1990 to 1992 and the chairman of the Wisemen from 1986 to 1990, two associations of public relations executives. In 2006, he received the PRSSA David Ferguson Award for his work in advancing public relations education.
Before joining Johnson & Johnson, Foster was a reporter, bureau chief, and night editor for the Newark News in New Jersey. He is also the author of A Company That Cares (1986), a history of Johnson & Johnson, and since 1986 he has been a trustee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J., the nation’s largest health care philanthropy.
Foster graduated in 1948 from The Pennsylvania State University and served as president of the Penn State Alumni Association, as a University Trustee, as chair of the Fund Council and chairman of the Libraries Development Advisor Board. He received Penn State’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, was an Alumni Fellow and recipient of the 1999 Lion’s Paw Medal for service to the university. He served as chairman of the academic committee of the Alumni Board of the College of Communications.
Following his retirement from Johnson & Johnson in 1990, Foster devoted his time to writing and serving as a public relations counsel. The parents of five children and eight grandchildren, Mr. Foster and his wife, Ellen, have called State, College, Pa., and Westfield, N.J. home.
Mr. Foster passed away on October 18, 2013 at his home in Westfield, New Jersey. He was 88 years old at the time of his passing.
The Lawrence G. Foster chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America is extremely grateful for everything Mr. Foster did for the chapter, for Penn State University, and for the field of public relations. We hope to honor his legacy through hard work and education within the chapter.