Richard Bolte Jr. makes name for himself while paying tribute to his father and son
By Kelly Flynn
For Richard Bolte, Jr., much of his work revolves around honoring a legacy. As a single father, Richard Bolte, Sr. started BDP International with a typewriter and a $1,200 loan and grew the company into a global business.
Today, Bolte, Jr. serves as CEO of his father’s company and is continuing his efforts in more ways than one. As of July, Bolte has been named chair of the Science History Institute’s board of directors, a nonprofit organization of which his father was an avid supporter. But his father’s work is not the only Bolte legacy he is preserving. Having lost his son Ryan at a young age, Bolte pays tribute to his late son through the foundation his family created in Ryan’s honor.
Bolte was born in Northeast Philadelphia and moved to Turnersville where he attended Washington Township High School. Around the same time the family moved, Bolte’s father started BDP, a company focused on providing logistics and transportation services. One year into the business, Bolte’s mother passed away from leukemia leaving Bolte, Sr. to raise four young children by himself while also running his newly established business.
Bolte said he has a tremendous amount of respect for the manner in which his father juggled the roles of father and business-owner. He said as the oldest child, he found himself in a leadership role taking care of some of his younger siblings, which were skills that would serve him well later in life.
He attended Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. Having worked for BDP since age 15, Bolte knew he was interested in pursuing a career in logistics, so he studied business and finance as well as Spanish. Upon graduating in 1979, Bolte returned home to work at BDP’s Philadelphia office where he was the company’s 25th employee. Today, they have more than 5,000 employees.
He moved to Moorestown in 1978 where his parents had also settled down and where his stepmother still lives to this day. He said he and his wife were looking at different cities when they came upon an idyllic development in Moorestown.
Bolte had two sons by his first marriage, Richard and Ryan. In 1996, he lost his 8-year-old son Ryan to an inoperable brain tumor. He said they did the best they could to treat the disease, but the tumor proved incurable. Bolte said out of the terrible tragedy came a new clarity. The loss gave him new insights into his emotions, and writing became his catharsis. To this day, Bolte writes poetry and short stories, and he said he is always eager to share his writing. He said his message is as damaged or gripped by sorrow as you might be, there is still hope.
The family established the Ryan Christopher Bolte Foundation in Ryan’s memory. The foundation holds an annual golf fundraiser with a memorial golf tournament with the proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Jersey. To date, the organization has raised more than $1.5 million.
When Bolte’s father passed away in 2006, he wanted to honor him as well. He did so first by stepping into the role of CEO of BDP, which is a job that keeps him busy to this day.
“He had remarkable determination,” Bolte said of his father. “He was obviously an influence on all of us growing up.”
Through the Science History Institute, the Bolte family established the Richard J. Bolte Sr. Award Award for Supporting Industries. In 2001, Bolte’s father joined the board of Chemical Heritage Foundation and was actively interested in supporting their mission. The Chemical Heritage Foundation merged with the Life Science Foundation to create the Science History Institute, whose mission is to preserve and interpret the history of chemistry, the life sciences and chemical engineering.
Before his passing in 2006, Bolte, Sr. was an avid supporter of the nonprofit. The award honors those who provide products or services that continue the growth of chemical and molecular sciences.
“We thought it was a good way to honor him,” Bolte said. “He really enjoyed his time at what was then called the Chemical Heritage Foundation, so we thought it was very appropriate.”
Bolte is continuing his father’s relationship with the Science History Institute by stepping into the chair role. He said when he learned he had been elected his was initially hesitant about whether he would have enough time to devote to the role, but he ultimately agreed because he was excited by the prospect of helping the nonprofit to better achieve their mission.
In his free time, Bolte finds himself writing, playing golf and enjoying summers down the shore with his wife Karen. He said their two children, Tom and Julia, are currently in college and are both active in sports.
To find out more about the Ryan Christopher Bolte Foundation, visit https://ryanchristopherboltefoundation.org. To learn more about the Science History Institute, visit https://www.sciencehistory.org.