Coker’s Foster remembered
BENNETTSVILLE, S.C. – The Rev. John Foster III, 60, died on Thursday, Dec. 21. He was 60. Service arrangements were pending as of late Saturday afternoon by Morris Funeral Home in Bennettsville.
Foster was an associate professor of Religion, and director for Diversity, Interfaith, and Inclusion Education at Coker College in Hartsville. He had a M.Ed., and a B.A. from the University of South Carolina, and was an ordained by the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.
Coker College’s Dr. Robert Wyatt made this comment when asked about Foster.
“It is impossible to adequately express the loss John’s passing has on the Coker and Hartsville communities,” he said. “His dream was to make the world a better, peaceful place for everyone and he did that every single day of his life. His leadership, mentorship and friendship will be missed on campus and around our town. May we all work together to carry out John’s prayer of a ‘better, more peaceful world,’.”
Brianna Douglas, Vice President of Student Success at Coker also made a statement on behalf of Coker College.
“John was a dear friend for many years,” she said. “He made our community a better place by showing love and compassion for all. We will honor him by continuing to bring people together for positive change. He will be missed.”
Foster headed up Coker College’s Center for Diversity, Interfaith and Inclusion Education. The Center spearheaded a number of initiatives, all aimed at creating a sense of belonging for all students at Coker. One of his latest was the Coker Gentlemen, according to college resources.
There are a number of reasons why students leave college, but one of the most pervasive is feeling like they don’t belong. The Center for Diversity, Interfaith, and Inclusion Education at Coker College was created in an effort to promote the wellbeing of all Coker students, and to ensure that everyone is able to experience a sense of belonging on campus.
“Students who aren’t persisting, they’re leaving because they feel like they don’t belong,” said Douglas. “Through cultural awareness programming, we’re hoping to increase that sense of belonging.”
The center’s newest initiative is the Coker Gentlemen mentoring program. Designed specifically for sophomore male students, Coker Gentlemen provides mentees with the opportunity to meet confidentially with their mentors to discuss issues such as academics, personal concerns, or spiritual matters. By the end of their sophomore year, the goal is that mentees have a strong support system in place and a positive self-image—and the necessary encouragement to stay in school through graduation.
“It’s a program that looks at the academic and the emotional, but it’s also a program that looks at how men perform masculinity,” said Foster in department information.
“Many of our men have problems in social spaces. A lot of our men come from backgrounds that have not been supportive. A lot of men come from backgrounds where they’ve been given mixed messages about what it is to be a man...So how to deal with power benevolently will be one of the goals, the many goals, that we have to help these men achieve, not only here at college but in the workplace,” he said.
The Coker Gentlemen program is not an insular initiative; the Center will offer other male-centered programs, open to all men on campus. There are also plans to develop a similar mentoring program for women at Coker.
Foster also pastored at Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, but had been with St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Darlington the past year.
The following message was posted on the Diocese of South Carolina website.
“Please keep the family and loved ones of the Rev. John Foster in your prayers. John died in his sleep early this (Thursday) morning,” it said.
Foster was ordained to the Vocational Diaconate Dec. 1, 2012 at the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul in Charleston.
Foster was born Sept. 30, 1957 in Bennettsville. He was a graduate of the Bennettsville Class of 1975, where he was class president.
He is son of the late Rev. John Foster, Jr, and Hattie Lucas Foster, of the home and survived by Hattie Lucas Foster, of the home.
Services will be held at Historical Sawmill Missionary Baptist in Bennettsville on Thursday at 2 p.m.