Motorcoach Industry and American Bus Association Mourns the Passing of Legendary Leader Bert Askwith, President of Campus Coach Lines and Honorary Lifetime ABA Board Member (June 2, 2015)
Bert Askwith, the founder and President of Campus Coach Lines and longtime member of the ABA Board of Directors, and Chairman Emeritus of the ABA Foundation passed away Monday, June 1st at age 104.
As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1928, Bert Askwith started a small bus company to take his fellow students back and forth to New York, where some of them lived. Bert believed bus transportation would be more cost-effective than rail, and even as he was attending classes, the business began to grow. His small bus company expanded with regular service between Michigan and New York and the money he made, after building the motorcoach company went to pay for his tuition, along with his room and board.
After graduation in 1931, during the depths of the Great Depression, Bert moved his successful business to New York, now named Campus Coach Lines, and he continued running the company until he passed away.
To say Bert Askwith was a legendary figure in the motorcoach industry is an understatement. During his 86 year career, in addition to being the President and CEO of Campus Coach Lines, Bert served in a variety of high-profile national and regional industry leadership positions. This included a nearly 20-year tenure on ABA’s Board of Directors and six years as the President of the New York State Bus Association.
In 2011, to mark his lifelong contribution to the industry, ABA’s Board of Directors made Bert an Honorary Director. Bert also served as the first Chairman of the ABA Foundation providing instrumental leadership to shape and grow the organization from a scholarship program to the leader in motorcoach group travel research. In recognition of his service to the ABA Foundation he was named Chairman Emeritus. In May 2013, the ABA Board of Directors presented him with an award to honor his 85 years of tireless work on behalf of the motorcoach industry.
In addition to his strong and consistent generosity towards the ABA Foundation, Bert was also known for his many other charitable contributions, including the United Way and his beloved alma mater, the University of Michigan. Bert’s donations and vision on the Michigan campus helped build and grow the Askwith Media Library, Bert’s Cafe and Bert’s Study Lounge. This past year he also showed his commitment to the performing arts by providing donated tickets so every first year or new transfer University of Michigan student could attend a performance of the University Musical Society.
“Bert Askwith was a friend to all of us in the motorcoach industry. His significant contributions during his long career will likely never be matched,” said ABA President/CEO Peter J. Pantuso. “Bert was a remarkable man. His hard work, beginning as a college student when the industry was in its formative stages, set the stage for the growth we have seen during the past 86 years. Bert was President of Campus Coach Lines for almost as long as ABA has been in existence and together because of his leadership and vision, our industry is strong. He was a friend to all of us."
“Bert was a real leader and mentor to everyone in the industry. His advice and his counsel were always respected,” said ABA Chairman John Meier, the President of Badger Bus. "Campus Coach Lines became a great company because of the strong foundation Bert laid at the University of Michigan in the late 1920's and the hard work he did every day for 86 years."
“Bert’s generosity to the ABA Foundation was expressed in time, leadership and support. He always believed in the strategic research the foundation does and the scholarship funding for the hundreds of college students who benefited because of these grants. Bert loved young people and wanted them to pursue their educational goals. As a young man in the 1920’s he knew how important education was to him. Bert's legacy will live for many years to come,” said ABA Foundation Chairman Doug Anderson, the President of Anderson Coach and Travel.