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Lawrence G. Foster, Former Johnson & Johnson Corporate Vice President of Public Relations, Dies at 88

October 18, 2013

Former Johnson & Johnson Corporate Vice President of Public Relations, Lawrence G. Foster, who guided the company’s now famous response to the Tylenol crises of 1982 and 1986, died Thursday at the age of 88.

Foster joined Johnson & Johnson in 1957 intrigued by General Robert Wood Johnson and the challenge of helping to form the company's first public relations department. He was Director of Public Relations and Assistant to the Chairman before becoming Corporate Vice President of Public Relations. During his 33 years with Johnson & Johnson he reported to three Chairmen/CEOs.  He retired in 1990. 

He was a graduate of St. Mary’s High School, Rutherford, N.J. (1943) and Penn State University (1948). After graduating from Penn State Foster joined the staff of the Newark News and his reporting assignments included New Jersey's tumultuous politics. He headed two news bureaus, and in 1954 became the newspaper's night editor at the age of 29. 

While at Penn State, Foster was managing editor of the Daily Collegian and a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, and after graduating he remained actively involved with the University. He was honored with the Distinguished Alumnus Award (1979) and the Lion's Paw Medal for Service to the University (1999). He served as a University Trustee (1980-89) and president of the Alumni Association (1972).  His volunteer service and philanthropy to the University has spanned more than 50 years. 

Upon retiring from Johnson & Johnson in 1990, Foster fulfilled a long-standing ambition by writing and publishing the biography of Robert Wood Johnson, "Robert Wood Johnson: The Gentleman Rebel" (1999), which has been distributed to every public and college library in the nation. He is also author of "A Company That Cares, the 100-year history of Johnson & Johnson" (1986) and "Robert Wood Johnson and His Credo: A Living Legacy" (2008). 

Foster was recipient of four of the highest awards in public relations:  the prestigious Alexander Hamilton Medal from the Institute for Public Relations in 2007, for lifetime contributions to the profession; the Atlas Award from PRSA in 1998, for lifetime achievement in international public relations; the Hall of Fame Award from the Arthur W. Page Society in 1994; and in 1989 the Gold Anvil Award, also from PRSA, for contributions to the profession.  PR Week magazine named Foster one of the 10 most influential PR executives of the 20th Century.

He was a founder and past chairman of the Advisory Board of the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication at Penn State University's College of Communications; a 16-year trustee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J., the nation's largest health care philanthropy; former president of the Arthur W. Page Society (1990-92); and chairman of The Wisemen (1986-90).

He was predeceased by a brother, Donald J. Foster.  He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Ellen Miller Foster; brother, Kenneth A. Foster; daughter, Cynthia Falck, and husband, Brian; son, David L. Foster, V.M.D., and wife, Lucy; daughter, Nanci Carlson, and husband, Carl; son, Gregg M. Foster, and wife, Sandra; son, Lawrence G. Foster, III, M.D., and wife, Patricia; ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A funeral mass will be held 10 a.m., Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, at The Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity, 315 1st St., Westfield, NJ.  Burial will be private.

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

Ed Note: We encourage readers to use the comments section (by clicking the “View Comments” link below) to share your favorite memories about Larry and pay tribute to his life.


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