Nov. 19, 2010
LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Bucknell University and the Department of Athletics and Recreation mourn the loss of Robert A. Latour, the original head coach of the Bison swimming and diving program and later the university's director of athletics, who passed away Thursday night at the age of 85.
Visiting hours will be at the Wilbraham Funeral Home, 2551 Wilbraham Road, Wilbraham, Mass., from 4-7 p.m., on Sunday, Nov. 21. The burial service will take place Monday, Nov. 22 at 1 p.m. at Woodland Dell Cemetery. There will also be a memorial service at the Wilbraham United Church on Monday, Dec. 20, tentatively set for 11 a.m.
Bob Latour arrived at Bucknell in 1956 to find a beautiful new swimming pool, but with no team to coach. He founded the varsity men's swimming team that fall, and very quickly the Bison program rose from obscurity to national prominence.
Over the next 12 years, he led his swim teams to an 83-31 record in dual meets, six Middle Atlantic Conference championships (1960, 1963-65, 1967-68) and the 1964 NCAA College Division championship. That remains Bucknell's only NCAA team title in any sport.
Latour coached 16 swimming All-Americans and five Bucknell Athletics Hall of Famers: Bill Dearstyne, Bill Dorr, Greg Olson, Jim Smigie and Jerry Thimme.
A 1949 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan and the recipient of a master's degree from Springfield College in 1955, Latour also served as assistant athletic director from 1964-68 and as freshman football coach from 1956-66. In 1968, he resigned as swimming coach to become Bucknell's director of athletics, a post he held until 1978.
In his decade as director of athletics, Latour guided the expansion of Bucknell's men's varsity sports offerings from nine to 13, saw Bucknell win more MAC University Division and East Coast Conference team championships (23) than any other school, and was a principal force behind the construction of a $4 million sports and recreation center, which became one of the focal points of the university's athletics facilities at the time.
The indoor facility, now known as Gerhard Fieldhouse, was little more than a vision when Latour began his tenure as AD, but it was nearing completion when he left the post, and he was one of the guiding lights in its planning and construction.
During Latour's service as athletic director, Bucknell added men's lacrosse, cross country, indoor track and field and water polo. His tenure was marked by a strong emphasis on what he called "the total program," the expansion of the means for honoring Bucknell's senior athletes, and a doubling of participation in the university's intramurals program.
Latour was a member of the NCAA Division II Football Committee from 1973-78 and was its chairman from 1976-78, a period during which he also served on the NCAA Television Committee. He also served a two-year term on the Academic Testing and Requirements Committee of the NCAA.
Latour was also a prominent advocate of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Eastern College Basketball Association in 1970-71, was chairman of the James Lynah Memorial Award Committee in 1977, and served terms on the Administrative Committee and Executive Council of the ECAC.
His leadership included service as president of the University Division of the Middle Atlantic Conference in 1973-74, as the first president of the East Coast Conference from 1974-76, and a decade as chairman of the Swimming Games Committee of both conferences. He also served as a member of the American College Swim Coaches Association Records and All-American committees, and of the ECAC Golf Championship Committee.
After stepping down as director of athletics in 1978, Latour continued to serve the university and the athletics department in multiple capacities until retiring permanently in February of 1990. A professor of physical education, he was coordinator of physical education and athletic recruiting, was the university's NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative for 12 years, taught a course entitled "Sport as a Social Institution" in the Freshman Adviser Seminar program from 1977-88, and was interim director of athletics from January-June 1988.
In August 1979, Latour spent two weeks coaching swimming in Brazil as part of the Partners of America program, and he took a sabbatical leave to the University of Wales at Swansea in 1981. Following his tenure as director of athletics, Latour served as a high school and college swimming official, and he taught an aquatic conditioning class for older adults that was very popular in the Lewisburg community.
In honor of his many achievements in coaching, teaching and administration, Latour was inducted into the Bucknell Athletics Hall of Fame in 1985. He was the recipient of the 1963 and 1968 Dearstyne-Dorr Awards for "outstanding contributions to Bucknell's swimming program," and in 1987, the Robert A. Latour Award, presented annually for "outstanding achievement in and dedication to Bucknell women's swimming," was created in his honor. There is also an annual senior athletics award named in his honor, presented for "extraordinary service to Bucknell and local communities."
In November 2002, Latour's former star swimmer and current university trustee, Bill Dearstyne, established the Robert A. Latour Varsity Swimming and Diving Endowment. The gift permanently endowed the head coaching position for Bucknell swimming and diving and provided operating funds for the program.
While a resident of Lewisburg, Latour was a longtime member of the Lewisburg Lions Club and was its president in 1984-85. He was extremely active as a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Lewisburg, and he served on the Board of Directors of the Himmelreich Memorial Library in Lewisburg.
Born May 11, 1925 in Bayonne, N.J., and raised in Middletown, N.Y., Latour served in the U.S. Army in 1943-44. Prior to coming to Bucknell in 1956 he coached swimming at Albany (N.Y.) Academy and at Bethlehem Central School in Delmar, N.Y. His swimming team at Albany Academy won four state prep school championships and featured 18 prep All-Americans.