Class of 1991
Thomas J. Bata was born in 1914 in Zlin, Czechoslovakia. Bata comes from nine generations of cobblers, and his induction into the business of shoemaking was early and intensive. His father established the Bata Shoe Company in the late 19th century and was the town’s mayor as well as its number one employer. Sadly, Thomas was just a teenager when his father was killed in an airplane crash. Thomas would follow in his father’s footsteps, turning the company into one of the most well-known names in footwear worldwide.
Thomas left Europe for Canada in 1939, and chose the Trenton, Ontario area as the new centre of Bata’s manufacturing operation. The new plant was also offered to Canada’s war effort and was used for making gun mounts and precision instruments. Married in 1946, Thomas met his wife Sonja in Switzerland and soon found her to be a clever and efficient business partner. She became involved in the development of shoe lines and marketing strategies, and is the founder of Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum.
A leading industrialist, Thomas Bata was able to transform his father’s company into a highly successful enterprise. Under his leadership, the Bata Shoe Company has sold more than 14 billion pairs of shoes; greater than the number of pairs of human feet that have walked the earth.
Mr. Bata has been a director of IBM World Trade, and an advisor to the United Nations Commission on Trans-National Corporations. He was also an Honorary Colonel of the Canadian Forces Reserve and often visited the troops in the field. Vaclav Havel, the Czech president, awarded Thomas the country's top decoration, the Tomas Garrigue Masaryk Order. In addition, Mr. Bata was named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1972.
is son Thomas George Bata took over the shoe company from him in 2001.