Bert Bates delivers his acceptance remarks for winning Beta’s Shepardson Award at the 182nd General Convention in Oxford, Ohio.
Brother W.H. “Bert” Bates, Missouri ’49, is best characterized by leadership in his profession and community, as well as his dedication to a Great and Good Fraternity.
Bert passed away peacefully on Thursday, October 20, at age 96.
After serving in the Army’s Second Infantry Division during World War II, Brother Bates was initiated into the ranks of the Zeta Phi Chapter in 1948. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and left Columbia to pursue his Juris Doctorate at the University of Michigan. After completing his degree, Bert practiced law for 70 years at the distinguished law firm now known as Lathrop GPM as associate, partner and senior counsel. In that time, he served as president of the University of Missouri’s Board of Curators, president of the Missouri Bar, member of the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates and chairman of The Hawthorne Foundation.
Brother Bates won the Award for Outstanding Service from the Lawyers Association of Kansas City, the President’s Citation Pro Bono Award from the Missouri Bar, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Missouri and the Distinguished Non-Alumni Award from Missouri’s law school. He was even designated as an honorary colonel by four Missouri governors. Ultimately, his multitude of achievements in his profession led to him accepting the Oxford Cup on behalf of the Fraternity in 1996.
Bert Bates (second from left) speaks with Beta brothers at a Convention.
In 2001, Bert was appointed to the Beta Foundation Board of Directors. Of his six years volunteering in this capacity, he concurrently spent four as chairman of the Upon These Principles Campaign. Under his leadership, the campaign successfully raised $20.1 million in cash and estate gift pledges — an interfraternity record at the time among Beta’s 60-plus peer organizations — to fund the then-young Men of Principle initiative and endow its educational programming.
At the 182nd General Convention in Oxford, Bert was presented the Francis W. Shepardson Award for his dedication to the Fraternity, becoming the sixth brother to receive both of Beta’s top alumni awards. Jokingly in his remarks, he mentioned how the drive to the Administrative Office — Lugar-Bates Drive, named for the chairmen of the successful capital campaign — would have been better named in alphabetical order. Bert’s humor, quick wit and charm were endearing to all who met him and hallmarks of his warm personality.
A memorial service will be held at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City on November 19 at 10:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to “The W.H. ‘Bert’ Bates Oxford Cup Scholarship Fund” at Beta Theta Pi Foundation, the “W.H. ‘Bert’ Bates Scholarship Fund” at Zeta Phi Society Foundation, Inc. (supporting collegiate brothers at Missouri), or the music program at his church in Kansas City.
May Brother Bert Bates, Roll No. 981 on the official roll of the Zeta Phi Chapter of Beta Theta Pi, rest in peace. Forever in ___kai___.