Lawrence G. Foster, RWJF Trustee Emeritus, Dies at 88

    • October 18, 2013

As Johnson & Johnson's corporate vice president of publications, Lawrence G. Foster was best known for his leadership in guiding the company's now famous response to the Tylenol product tampering scares of 1982 and 1986. To this day, that successful effort remains a classic case study in corporate crisis management.

At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Foster brought all of his gifts to bear as a member of our Board of Trustees. He served as a Trustee for 16 years before being elected to emeritus status in 2002. 

Foster died Thursday at age 88.

In addition to his service to the Board of Trustees, Foster is remembered for his contributions to our history—in particular, his insights into the life and times of our founder.

"He literally wrote the book on Robert Wood Johnson," said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD. "Two books, actually: Robert Wood Johnson: The Gentleman Rebel (1999), which has been distributed to every public and college library in the nation; and Robert Wood Johnson and His Credo: A Living Legacy (2008). We will miss him."

Foster was also author of A Company That Cares, the 100-year history of Johnson & Johnson (1986).

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.

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 the Public Relations Society of America (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 public relations 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; former president of the Arthur W. Page Society (1990-92); and chairman of The Wisemen (1986-90).