LSC remembers alumna Jean Fewster, gracious donor and friend

Members of the Department of Life Sciences Communication are remembering fondly all that Jean Fewster — successful alumna, gracious donor, and great friend of LSC — did for the department before passing away on Oct. 15, 2015 at the age of 91.

Jean Fewster, LSC alumna and donor.

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Fewster’s career began with the Dairy Farmers of Canada. She went coast-to-coast spreading knowledge of the importance of dairy in the home through avenues like recipes, brochures, and radio shows.

She then came to the University of Wisconsin–Madison for a master’s degree in home economics journalism and nutrition and earned a Ph.D. in mass communications in 1969 in the Department of Agricultural Journalism, which is now known as the Department of Life Sciences Communication.

“She just filled up the room wherever she went and was so positive and upbeat,” said LSC professor emeritus Larry Meiller, who knew Fewster. “I don’t think those qualities diminished one bit during the 30 years I knew her.”

Following her graduate training, Fewster took a job at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, Italy, where she worked for many years. During that time her work took her to almost 100 countries across the globe.

She traveled to emerging countries to help women manage their nutrition and food handling practices, training native people to help their communities grow and prosper. She earned several awards in home economics and nutrition during her career. However, she never forgot about her time spent at UW–Madison in LSC.

“I think she always felt an affinity for the department and its professors and students,” said Fewster’s sister Carol von Elbe, whose husband Joe von Elbe was also chair of the Department of Food Science from 1988 to 1998. “It’s a very close department where professors and students form great relationships. I think she appreciated that and wanted to give back.”

Fewster graciously set up a scholarship program in LSC for women in graduate school wanting to pursue international interests like hers. Since the program started in 2005, 20 female graduate students in LSC have received generous scholarships.

Fewster visited the department during its 100th anniversary celebration. Here she stands with professor emeritus Larry Meiller and Juli Hinds, who got one of Fewster's scholarships in 2005.
Fewster visited the department during its 100th anniversary celebration. Here she stands with professor emeritus Larry Meiller and Juli Hinds, who got one of Fewster’s scholarships in 2005.

“I was really honored to receive a scholarship honoring Dr. Fewster,” said Heather Akin, who earned one of the awards in 2007 and is now a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. “She was really a trailblazer for women earning advanced degrees in communication. I’ve worked and taught in Indonesia, studied Indonesian language at UW, and have a PhD minor in Southeast Asian Studies. I am interested in cross-cultural comparison of attitudes and behaviors related to environmental issues.”

LSC is very honored to have the support of such passionate alumni who want to help students carry on the department’s legacy of communicating about health, the environment, agriculture, and the biological sciences.

“We are very lucky to have the support of such amazing alumni,” said LSC chair Dominique Brossard. “It’s donors like Jean that help our students pursue exciting research and successful careers.”

For more on the life of Jean Fewster, her career, and her family go to: That obituary also contributed information to this post.