LC alumna Joan Fitzgerald Foster has been named the Richard H. Thornton Scholar at University of Lynchburg for significant contributions in the field of education and public service. She holds three degrees from University of Lynchburg: a bachelor of arts in education (1969), a master of arts in teaching (1970), and a master of education (1985).
The chief operating officer for the Family Alliance of Central Virginia, Foster is the first woman to serve as mayor of the city of Lynchburg. She was first elected to City Council in 2002. Her advocacy on behalf of children and families has driven much of her public policy work, and she has served on the boards and in leadership roles for numerous service agencies and not-for-profit organizations including the Southside Regional Advisory Board for the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation, Dance Theatre of Lynchburg, Adopt-A-Neighborhood, Virginia Federation for Drug-Free Youth, Phi Delta Kappa honorary education society, and the Virginia Education Association State Conference.
In 2007, the University of Lynchburg Alumni Association recognized Foster’s contributions to society by presenting her with a Distinguished Alumni Award, and she received the 2004 Evelyn P. Bickham Outstanding Undergraduate Alumni Award from the School of Education and Human Development. Her alumni involvement includes serving as a member of Class of 1969 reunion committees.
She mentioned in an interview for a University of Lynchburg Magazine profile that her development was nurtured by the College’s small class size and her numerous faculty mentors and that it was at University of Lynchburg that she began focusing on the needs and challenges of society’s disadvantaged members. That early start has blossomed into a life of community service, activism, leadership, and the city’s top elected position.
The Richard H. Thornton Award for Excellence, also known as the Thornton Scholar Award, was established in 1974 in honor of Dr. Richard H. Thornton ’07 (1907), ’68 LL.D., ’68 D.H.L. to recognize alumni who have made significant contributions to their fields. Candidates must have received their degrees at least twenty years ago and are selected by a committee of members from the LC Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi.