Lawrence Foster, former Johnson & Johnson executive, dies at age 88

Story highlights

  • Foster led PR efforts during poison-laced Tylenol incidents in 1982
  • He was lauded for his handling of the crisis; his methods are taught today
  • Foster was the recipient of four of the highest awards in public relations, alma mater says

Lawrence G. Foster, former Johnson & Johnson corporate vice president of public relations, died Thursday morning, according to his son, Lawrence G. Foster III. He was 88 years old.

Foster was at the helm during the public relations storm in 1982 when seven people died after ingesting poison-laced Tylenol. Foster stepped in to ensure that 32 million bottles of the over-the-counter medicine were removed from shelves. He was lauded for his transparency during the crisis and the example he set is still taught in business and public relations schools.

Foster died of natural causes at his home in Westfield, New Jersey, with family present, said his son.

"He was a man of uncommon generosity and faith. I think that summarizes him perfectly," said his son in a statement to CNN.

Foster's longstanding career with the pharmaceutical company began in 1957 when he was lured to the company under the challenge of building Johnson & Johnson's first public relations department, according to the Public Relations Society of America. He worked at the company for 33 years before retiring in 1990.

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

He is survived by his wife, Ellen, and his five children, according to Lawrence Foster III.

His son said there will be a funeral on Monday, followed by a private burial in Westfield, New Jersey.

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