LEWISBURG, Pa. — Robert A. Latour, who served as Bucknell University’s swimming & diving coach from the inception of the program in 1956 until 1968 and director of athletics from 1968-78, has been posthumously elected to the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Hall of Fame. A member of the Bucknell Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 1985, Latour led his men’s teams to six MAC championships (1960, 1963-65, 1967-68) as well as the 1964 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) College Division title.
Latour, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 85, is one of 12 2023 inductees into the MAC Hall of Fame.
Latour started the swimming program at Bucknell in 1956-57, and in just its fourth varsity season, Bucknell won its very first conference title. The squad finished first six times and second three times over a nine-year span from 1960-68.
16 of Latour’s swimmers were selected to the College Division All-America Team, five were inducted into the Bucknell Athletics Hall of Fame, and his dual meet record was 83-31. In addition to winning the 1964 NCAA College Division title, Bucknell finished third the following season. The Bison captured seven individual gold medals and three relay titles in those two seasons.
Following the 1967-68 season, Latour stepped down as Bucknell’s head swim coach and was appointed to the director of athletics post, where he helped the university gain national stature with increased men’s and women’s athletic programs. In 10 years under his watch, Bison teams won more conference championships (23) than any other school, four sports were added to the intercollegiate program, and a $4 million sports/recreation center was constructed.
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 also the freshman football coach from 1956-65 and was chairman of the NCAA Division II Football Committee. He also served on several important administrative committees for the NCAA, including serving as chairman of the Division II Football Committee and as a member of the NCAA Television Committee.
Latour served stints as president of the Middle Atlantic Conference and East Coast Conference, plus served as a member of the executive committee of the Eastern College Basketball Association.
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 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-to-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 ’62, 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.
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-America selections.
Bucknell competed in the Middle Atlantic Conference through the 1973-74 season. The MAC Hall of Fame was launched in 2012, and each year 10 to 20 candidates are inducted from any of the 59 current and former member schools (Albright College, Alvernia University, American University, Arcadia University, Bucknell, Columbia University, University of Delaware, Delaware Valley College, DeSales University, Dickinson College, Drexel University, Drew University, Eastern University, Elizabethtown College, Farleigh Dickinson University-Florham, Franklin & Marshall College, Gettysburg College, Haverford College, Hofstra University, Hood College, Johns Hopkins University, Juniata College, La Salle University, Lafayette College, Lebanon Valley College, Lehigh University, Kings College, Lycoming College, Manhattanville College, Messiah University, Misericordia University, Moravian College, Muhlenberg College, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Rider University, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Saint Joseph’s University, the University of Scranton, Seton Hall University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Stevenson University, Susquehanna University, Swarthmore College, Temple University, Upsala College, Ursinus College, Wagner College, Washington College, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Widener University, Wilkes University, York College of Pennsylvania).
Release courtesy Bucknell University Athletics Communications