Dr. Ginna Foster Cannon

Foster Cannon

A memorial service will be held Saturday for Dr. Virginia “Ginna” Foster Cannon, 46, one of Rutherford County’s top tourism, history and arts advocates, who died suddenly this past weekend.

The service will be held at 12:30 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville, the Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau said. There will be a visitation from noon to 12:30 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, a memorial donation may be made to the Rutherford Arts Alliance, 115 Front Street, Smyrna, TN 37167 where Cannon was a founding board member and current chairwoman.

Cannon also was the director of Cultural and Heritage Tourism for the Convention and Visitors Bureau, affiliated with the chamber.

The chamber released this statement: “It is with profound sadness that the Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau shares that Ginna Foster Cannon, director of cultural and heritage tourism, passed away suddenly … Please keep Ginna’s family in your thoughts as they go through this difficult time.”

The Rutherford Arts Alliance (RAA) statement said, “We are deeply saddened at the sudden passing of Dr. Ginna Foster Cannon ... One of the driving forces behind the RAA since its inception, Ginna was a founding board member currently serving as our chair. Also, the director of Cultural and Heritage Tourism for the Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Ginna promoted and connected arts, culture, business, and other entities throughout the county with her uniquely enthusiastic, thoughtful, and generous spirit. We extend our deepest sympathies to Mark and Lolly and Ginna’s extended family and friends.”

Andrea Loughry of the RAA said, “Our arts culture and heritage community has lost a strong champion. She was helping us connect creatives in our county and market Rutherford as a cultural destination.”

The chamber website said Cannon joined the Convention and Visitors Bureau staff in 2018. Most recently, she was a post-doctorate fellow at the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University. While working on her dissertation, “An Exploration of Tennessee’s Historic Hotels as Cultural Heritage Tourism Assets,” she gained hands-on tourism experience as the professional resident at the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Main Street experience with Historic Lebanon.

Prior to MTSU, Cannon worked in the publishing industry, as project manager in business development for McGraw-Hill, and as president and founder of Swift Book Promotion LLC, the chamber said. Also, she earned a bachelor of arts from Harvard College, master of business administration from Columbia Business School and master of liberal arts and sciences from Vanderbilt University. 

Dr. Carroll Van West, director of the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation and the Tennessee state historian, said he was Cannon’s major professor while she worked as a graduate research assistant.

“Dr. Cannon was a special doctoral student with a passion and a commitment to her profession that may only be equaled, not bettered,” West said. “She was a creative scholar determined to make a difference, which she did, whether it was in her work with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, the Center for Historic Preservation, or most recently her brilliant leadership in cultural tourism for the Rutherford County CVB. A trusted colleague, a steadfast friend, and devoted to her family, it was my honor and privilege to teach and mentor her in a far too short yet impactful career. An incalculable loss for us all.

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