GREENWICH, Conn. — Louis F. Bantle, philanthropist and chairman emeritus, president and CEO of U.S. Tobacco from 1973 to 1993, passed away on October 10 at age 81.
According to Harvard Business School Leadership Initiative, he was one of the great American business leaders of the 20th Century.
He had a tie to Hawaii as uncle of Hawaii Reporter researcher and reporter Laura Brown. “Uncle Lou was more than a philanthropist or CEO. He was a kind, humble man who helped anyone in need and without question. He cherished his family. He set a shining example for all of us to follow. We will miss him dearly,” Brown says.
Bantle began his business career at U.S. Tobacco, then located in Greenwich, Conn., in 1962 as advertising manager.
In 1967, he was elected vice president of marketing and a member of the board of directors. He was elected chairman and president in 1973 and later held the position of CEO until his retirement in 1993. Under his tenure and leadership, U.S. Tobacco sales grew tenfold.
During that time, UST acquired Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington State’s largest winery, and it began a successful association with NASCAR by sponsoring the “Skoal Bandit” Grand National race car.
Bantle graduated from the Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University, in Syracuse, N.Y., with a degree in business administration in 1951.
In 1979, he received the George Arents Pioneer Medal Award, the highest honor for alumni who demonstrate excellence in business.
In 1986, he was named a Letterwinner of Distinction and the Chancellors Medal in 1991 for service to business, education and humanitarian concerns.
In 1994, he was named the Whitman School of Management Alumnus of the Year and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. He has established two endowed faculty Chairs at Syracuse University. He has also established several scholarships and he served on the Syracuse University board of trustees from 1980 until 1997.
After graduating from Syracuse University in 1951, Bantle served two years of active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean conflict, attaining the rank of captain.
In June 1989, he was honored by the Neve Yerushalayim College for Women in Israel. He was also a Trustee of Fairfield University.
Always active in the community Bantle established or served on the boards of numerous addiction and recovery programs. Bantle dedicated his recovering life to the growing problems of drug and alcohol abuse nationwide and abroad.
In 1996, he founded and funded the International Institute for Alcohol Education & Training (IIAET) and its Center for Healing, the House of Hope in St. Petersburg, Russia. Its healing program is based on the 12-step program. This act was the genesis of Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) in Russia. He was chairman emeritus for life of the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Council and chairman of the board of directors. He was a board member of High Watch in Kent, Conn., and of Father Martin’s Ashley in Havre de Grace, Md.
Bantle and his wife, Virginia, were pioneers in helping establish The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and The Buoniconti Fund in the quest to find a cure for paralysis and to better the lives of those who suffer from spinal cord injuries.
In 1991, he was named chairman of the Connecticut Alcohol & Drug Abuse Commission, and in 1976, he led the drive to launch the Annual Greenwich Pro-Am Golf Tournament, the proceeds of which benefited numerous local charities. Active with the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Bantle served as board member and chairman of its fundraising committee.
In 1991, he was recognized by the National Conference of Christians and Jews as the recipient of their National Human Relations Award. He and his wife were presented with the 1991 Caritas Award by the National Conference of Catholic Charities.
As a valuable supporter, mentor, volunteer and benefactor of Explorer Post 53 Ambulance Corp, Bantle helped to develop one of the nation’s most successful and replicated Explorer Programs. He served as an advisory board member with the Fairfield County and Greater New York Boy Scout councils, each of which awarded him their Good Scout Award. He was an advisory board member of Americares, served on the board of directors of the Taft Institute, and on the board of the National Legal Center for the Public Interest.
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush appointed him to the advisory committee on the arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Bantle was affiliated with the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Marine Corps Historical Foundation. In 1990, he received the “Semper Fi” award from the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. He was also a Knight of the Royal Order of the North Star, an exclusive investiture of the government of Sweden, rarely granted outside that country.
He was an affiliate member of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement at Graymoor, Garrison, N.Y. He was a special advisor to the Friars Minister General, served on the financial board and was a supporter of the friars’ shelter, treatment and recovery programs at St. Christopher’s Inn. Vita Nova, a facility dedicated to serving the needs of homeless youth in West Palm Beach, Fla., named a residence on its campus in honor of the Bantles for their generosity and goodness.
Bantle was also an avid golfer.
He is survived by his wife, Virginia (Gini) Clark Bantle, son and daughter in-law Bob and Lori Bantle of Greenwich, daughter and son-in-law Terri and Christopher Walker of Rowayton and his four grandchildren: Brooke and Kate Bantle, Brittany and Christopher Walker. Funeral services were private.
Donations may be sent to: International Institute for Alcoholism Education and Training (For the House of Hope) One Centre Street Darien, CT 06820 High Watch Recovery Center Building Fund 62 Carter Road PO Box 607 Kent, CT 06757; Father Martin’s Ashley 800 Tydings Lane Havre de Grace, MD 21078