In Memoriam – John S. Foley, former RIC administrator, grad

John S. Foley of Cape Coral, Fla., who earned two degrees at RIC and went on to a 33-year career at the college serving in several administrative positions, died unexpectedly on June 21, 2011. He was 69.

John Foley
Foley, a Pawtucket native who also lived for many years in Riverside, began working at RIC as an admissions officer in 1967, while studying for his master’s degree. He was promoted to assistant director of admissions in 1970, and from 1971-78 he served as director of the department.

In a letter to faculty and staff announcing one of Foley’s appointments, then-RIC President Carol Guardo wrote that during his years in Admissions, “he reorganized the office, redesigned its data systems, enhanced school/college and student/college relations, and increased our annual enrollment yield.”

Foley next became executive director, then vice president, of the college’s Advancement and Support unit, a job he held until 1988. The position entailed responsibility for alumni, public and governmental relations and directing the college’s development and fundraising efforts.

“I tried to take the same philosophies I had in Admissions to the vice president’s job,” he said in a 2001 What's News @ RIC article. “In dealing with our alumni, I am always amazed at how much has been accomplished by our graduates from a state college in the smallest state in the country.”

Holly Shadoian ‘73, RIC assistant vice president for academic affairs, said Foley inspired her to seek a career in higher education.

“As the advisor for the Gold Key Society, the campus tour guides, John created opportunities for us to interact with faculty, staff and administrators as well as prospective students,” Shadoian said. “He gave me my first job as an admissions officer, and under his guidance, I was hooked on higher ed.”

Shadoian worked for Foley again when he hired her to be RIC’s alumni director. “It was another incredible experience with the man we often called Mr. RIC because he was such a proud alum. He instilled that feeling in all of us who worked for him. Rhode Island College was always in his heart, his mind and his actions,” she said.

In 1982, on his 40th birthday, Foley discovered he had multiple sclerosis. He worked with an MS support group, helping others afflicted with the central nervous system disease to cope, and received the MS Achievement Award from the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in 1985.

Foley went on to be director of the Recreation Center in 1988, a move he described as “returning to my roots,” because he had played football in high school, and soccer both at RIC and for local teams.


John Foley held several administrative position while at RIC, including director of the Recreation Center, which he stands in front of during construction in 1988.
He was in charge of supervising the new recreational complex, plan its promotion and manage its operations.

In 1997, he was named associate athletic director for intramurals and recreation.

“John loved Rhode Island College and no matter what position he held, this great affection for his alma mater was displayed in his professionalism, his enthusiasm, his dedication and his effort,” said Don Tencher, RIC Athletic Director. “John managed the Rec Center with great organization and the utmost concern for students.”

Foley retired from RIC in 2000. In recent years, he attended RIC alumni events in Florida, where he lived.

He attended Furman University in South Carolina in the residency program, and earned a BA degree from RIC with a double major (elementary education, social sciences) in 1967, and a master’s in counselor education in 1970.

While a student at RIC, he received the John E. Hetherman Award given annually for athletic achievement and scholastic success

Foley was named to RIC’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992, and to the Rhode Island Soccer Coaches’ Hall of Fame in 1982. He was the RIC Alumnus of the Year in 1981 and named one of the Outstanding Young Men of America in 1980 and one of the Outstanding Educators of America in 1973.

In 1985, he was the first recipient of the David E. Sweet Leadership Award at RIC, named for the late president of the college and given to a Leadership Rhode Island alumnus who significantly contributed to the growth and success of the organization.

In 1976, Foley was elected president of the newly formed Rhode Island Association of Admissions Offices. He had also been active in the Rotary Club of North Providence.

Foley served in the U.S. Air Force from 1959-63 as a personnel specialist.

He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Judy, three children and many grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Monday, June 27, at 10 a.m., at St. Andrew Catholic Church, Cape Coral, Fla., with interment at Coral Ridge Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in John Foley’s memory can be made to the Multiple Sclerosis Society; Ridgeway Shinn Study Abroad Fund, Rhode Island College, 600 Mt. Pleasant Ave., Providence, RI; or St. Andrew Catholic Church, 2628 Del Prado Blvd., Cape Coral, FL 33904.