Reverend John Foster, III, a professor at Coker for more than 25 years, died unexpectedly in December 2017, leaving behind a legacy of benevolence and acceptance that will carry on for generations to come. He was 60 years old.
"We will honor him by continuing to bring people together for positive change."
“He made our community a better place by showing love and compassion for all," said Brianna Douglas, vice president of student success at Coker. "We will honor him by continuing to bring people together for positive change."
John was ordained by the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and was an associate professor of religion, with a M.Ed. and a B.A. from the University of South Carolina. He was born and raised in Bennettsville, S.C.
“Everybody I knew in Bennettsville, they were teachers as well,” said John during a 2016 interview. “My father was a minister so teaching was a part of my DNA, part of the community I lived in.”
"His dream was to make the world a better, peaceful place for everyone."
“It is impossible to adequately express the loss John’s passing has on the Coker and Hartsville communities,” Dr. Robert Wyatt 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.”
“When I was growing up, social activism are things I knew about and participated in,” John shared. “So if you grow up like I grew up, you’re supposed to transform people’s lives, make people’s lives better, especially those that are oppressed.”
John headed Coker College's Center for Diversity, Interfaith and Inclusion Education. The Center spearheads a number of initiatives, all aimed at creating a sense of belonging for all students at Coker. Darlene Small, assistant dean and director of Coker’s Trans4mations program, will carry on John’s good work at the Center.
Darlene says, “Reverend John Foster's legacy at Coker College is one of learning, laughter and love. He made his mark in the classroom by introducing his students to authors of color and world religions, and encouraged thinking outside of the box. His laughter ringed through the halls and across campus as he engaged in conversations with students as well as colleagues. His love for humanity and desire to create a campus environment that welcomes everyone is evidenced by his seeking to create safe spaces and providing guidance to all through his messages and leadership of the Center for Diversity, Interfaith and Inclusion, which he proudly helped to establish. For many, memories of Reverend John Foster, III will forever be linked to their Coker story.”
Kyle Saverance, Chief Information Officer, says, "It is hard to capture—in words—the influence an individual had on others. We can describe things—facts, figures, dates, examples—that outline the unique qualities of someone's life, but it doesn't seem to come close to effectively sharing their true, lasting significance. As much as John Foster did for Coker's faculty, staff, alumni, and students—it was only a small portion of his life's work. He transformed communities and changed peoples' lives for the better. John Foster was and still is significant—at Coker and beyond."
December was a devastating month for the Coker College community. Shaqueena Mills, weekend and evening Sodexo dining supervisor, passed away on Dec. 31, 2017. Shaqueena a valued member of the Sodexo team, and a kind person. She frequently greeted faculty, staff, and students at the register in the Linville Dining Hall. Her smile, her warm presence, and professionalism made an enormous impact, and she is greatly missed.