Donald J. Foster - 76
11/24/1938 - 1/23/2015
DONALD J. FOSTER – BS, MS, EdD
PROFESSOR PRESIDENT EMERITUS
Dr. Donald “Don” James Foster passed
away on Friday, January 23, 2015, at
Serenty House, Oregon, Illinois--
following many years of battling
cancer. A native of Paw Paw, Lee
County, Illinois, Don was born on Nov.
24, 1938, the 2nd of 5 children. His
parents were Ethel L. Merriman &
Thomas L. Foster of rural West
Brooklyn, Illinois; paternal grand-
parents were: Lillian G. Tice & John E. Foster of Grinnell,
Iowa; maternal grandparents were Annie B. Shaddick &
James H. Merriman, of Paw Paw, Illinois — the Merriman
family being long-time residents of the area, his great-great
grandparents, Mary French & Peter Merriman, migrated to
Paw Paw in 1846.
Don attended several rural Lee County elementary
schools and was a member of the last graduating class of
Lee Center High School in 1956. He farmed with his father
for two years; then joined the US Army
(1958-1960). Being trained as a tank-
radio mechanic, he was assigned to
Company C, 1st Medium Tank Battalion,
Combat Command C, 32nd Armor, 3rd
Armored Division and stationed in
Friedberg, Hesse, Germany. [Don
enjoyed re-counting stories of Elvis
Presley, who often visited a mutual
friend in Don’s barracks.]
Following his military service, Don attended Illinois
State University, receiving his BS and MS degrees. In
1964, he began his career in education as a history teacher
at Sterling Township High School (1964-1968). In later
years he was a member of the Sterling Unit-5 school board,
serving as board president for 2 years.
. An early proponent of Illinois community colleges, Don
joined the faculty of the newly established Sauk Valley
(Junior) Community College in 1968. He taught courses in
Western Civilization, World Geography, Economics, and
Anthropology—receiving academic rank of Professor in
1976; and, becoming Dean of Education in 1981.
Continuing his education during summers and night
school, he was also a recipient of several National Science
Foundation (NSF) and National Defense Education Act
(NDEA) Summer Scholarships where he attended graduate
courses at Indiana University, University of Illinois,
Western Illinois University, Southern Illinois University,
and University of Colorado. Don received his Doctorate in
Education from Northern Illinois University in 1979.
In 1987, Don accepted a position at Waubonsee
Community College as Vice President of Education, Sugar
Grove, Illinois (Aurora, Illinois area); becoming Executive
Vice President in 1986.
Leaving the Illinois community college system in 1995,
he moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as President
of Gogebic Community College, Ironwood, Michigan — at
at his retirement in 2005, he had the distinction of being the
longest-serving President; and was subsequently awarded
President Emeritus status.
COMMUNITY SERVICE – A dedicated community-
service volunteer, Don gave his time/talent to many service
groups wherever he lived.
Following his retirement in 2005, Don and his wife
moved to Winnebago, Illinois where he was a member of
Rockford Rotary Club; Winnebago Lion’s Club;
Winnebago Public Library board; Knights of Columbus Council #
4739, St. Mary Church, Byron, Illinois; and was a board
member of SUAAction, the political action committee of
State University Annuitants Association (SUAA).
Family-members preceding him in death: his parents and
an older brother: Thomas E. Foster of Dixon, Illinois; and
brother-in-law, John W. Tutlis of Brooklyn, New York. He
is survived by his wife, the former Eugenia Tutlis, whom
he met at college and married on Sept. 2, 1961. Three
children also survive: Virginia S. Gibson (Jerome M.
Gibson) of San Antonio, Texas; Joseph E. Foster of
Oswego, Illinois; and Mary P. Zuwala (Mark L. Zuwala) of
Celebration, Florida. Five grand-children: Hannah C.
Gibson and Grant M. Gibson; Mary N. Foster and Nicholas
T. Foster; and Jillian C. Zuwala. Surviving siblings: sister-
in-law, Mrs. Tom Foster (Shirley A. Schnell); brother,
David A. Foster (Susan E. Erickson) of rural Ashton,
Illinois; sister, Barbara L. Wager (Dennis L. Wager) of
Towanda, Illinois; brother, William H. Foster (Katherine
M. Burhenn) of The Villages, Florida; and brother-in-law,
Paul H. Tutlis of Danville, Illinois.
Christian funeral mass will be held Friday January 30, 2015
at 10:30 AM in St. Mary Catholic Church, Byron, IL with
Father Howard Barch celebrating. Visitation will be held Thursday
from 5:00-8:00 PM in the Farrell-Holland-Gale Funeral Home, 506 W.
Merchant St., Byron with a prayer vigil at 7:45 PM. Also visitation Friday at the church from 9:30-10:30 AM.
Committal Rite of Christian Burial will be at 2:00 PM Friday
in Wyoming Township Cemetery, Paw Paw, Illinois — next to his
parents and amongst several generations of relatives.
May God Grant Him Eternal Peace.
The Foster family respectfully requests that memorial
contributions in Don’s honor be made to Rotary Club’s
“Polio Fund,” a world-wide effort to eradicate polio.
Please make checks payable to: Polio Fund - Rotary
International Foundation, c/o Rockford Rotary Club,
P.O. Box 1323, Rockford, IL 61105 - (on the memo line:
“Don Foster memoriam”)
Thursday Jan. 29th from 5:00-8:00 PM with prayer vigil at 7:45 PM and Friday at St. Mary Church from 9:30 -10:30 AM
Friday Jan. 30th at 10:30 AM Mass at St. Mary Catholic Church, ByronView Donald J. Foster's Guestbook