The passing of Dr. Sonja I. Bata, (LLD/99)
Bata passed away on February 20, 2018, at Toronto Western Hospital, surrounded by friends and family. She was 91.
Bata was a leader in the fields of business, education, culture and the environment. She was born and educated in Zurich, Switzerland, studied architecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and married Mr. Thomas Bata, C.C.. Sonja moved to Canada with her husband where they raised their four children and built a multinational shoe company, the Bata Shoe Organization.
The Bata headquarters in Toronto oversees Bata operations around the world, where they have created communities in Canada, India, and elsewhere, which provide employees with modern housing, education, and medical facilities. Dr. Bata’s interest in international footwear led her to develop the world’s largest footwear collection, the Bata Shoe Museum in downtown Toronto. Dr. Bata began collecting footwear in the 1940s, and the museum holds more than 13,000 artefacts across 4,500 years of history.
In addition to her involvement with aspects of the Bata shoe Foundation and Museum, Dr. Bata was former Chair of the National Design Council, Honorary Chair of the World Wildlife Fund, and Honorary Captain of the Canadian Navy.
With a particular interest in the Arctic, Dr. Bata established an endowment fund at the University of Manitoba with an initial gift of $150,000 in 2016. The purpose of the fund and associated scholarships is to stimulate Arctic research related to material culture, documenting the meaning, traditions, and values revealed in the making, interpreting, preservation, or history of Arctic culture and heritage.