Thomas Bata, York honorary degree recipient, dies at 93

Thomas Bata, head of the Bata Shoe Company until 2001 and a York University honorary degree recipient, died on Sept. 1 at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. He was 93.

Mr. Bata, an international entrepreneur and chairman of the Bata Shoe Foundation, was honoured by York in 1998 for his leadership in the globalization of York’s Schulich School of Business and for his work promoting economic development of former Central and East European countries.

Mr. Bata was the founding chair of Schulich’s International Advisory Council, provided internships for the school’s International MBA program and was a co-founder of its Electronic Trade Mission, an initiative that brings Canadian and foreign companies face to face using technology instead of travel. He was also a founder of the school’s East/West Enterprise Exchange program and a former member of its board.

Right: Thomas Bata

In 1939, Mr. Bata emigrated to Canada at age 25 and developed the Bata Shoe Company of Canada in Batawa, Ont. The company was modelled after his father’s footwear and trading enterprises in Central and Eastern Europe, which were nationalized by Communist governments following the Second World War.

Born in Czechoslovakia in 1914, Mr. Bata had taken over the helm of the Bata Shoe organization at 18 following his father’s death in 1932. His father, Tomas, founded the company in 1894.

Under Mr. Bata’s direction, Bata Shoe expanded into Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America becoming the largest manufacturer of shoes in the world with some 300 million being sold annually. His son took over the business seven years ago.

Mr. Bata, a Companion of the Order of Canada,  is survived by his wife Sonja, a son, three daughters and several grandchildren.

Friends are invited to a funeral mass and commemoration of Mr. Bata’s life at The Franciscan Church of St. Bonaventure, 1300 Leslie Street, North York, on Friday, Sept. 5 at 4pm. A reception will follow at the Bata family home. In lieu of flowers, if desired, donations may be made to Junior Achievement of Canada, 1 Eva Road, Suite 218, Toronto, Ontario, M9C 4Z5 or by calling 416-622-4602, or to the Thomas Bata Foundation in Zlin, Czech Republic.