Local businessman and philanthropist James W. Dye died early Thursday from natural causes, his family has confirmed.
Dye was the president of JWD Management, Inc. and the chairman of the James W. and Betty Dye Foundation
He is survived two sons, three daughters, 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, Betty.
Dye is known for his well-established scholarship program that has helped hundreds of Region students attend college over the past two decades.
Since 1993, the James W. and Betty Dye Foundation has awarded scholarships to more than 900 area students.
“To me personally, he was like my father. He was a fantastic mentor. He was a good boss,” said Carin Calvin-Olah, executive director at the James W. and Betty Dye Foundation. “I’ve learned so much from him, probably better than any university education I have ever received. He taught me more, and I learned more (from) observing him. He is the smartest man I’ve ever known. I’m going to miss him tremendously.”
Born in 1931, Dye quickly earned a knack for the business and construction worlds.
A Hammond High School graduate, Dye attended Indiana University, where he served on the broad of trustees for six years. His alma mater gave him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in October 2009.
Before returning home, Dye served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a real estate utilization and inspection officer from 1954-1956.
Around the same time, he also received his pilot's license.
When he was 21, Dye came back to the Region to help run the family business — Standard Lumber Co. He owned the business until the 1960s, before moving into real estate.
"I started working young and had a good work ethic. I started working at odd jobs at Standard Lumber and elsewhere. I worked as a block layer, soda jerk, had a paper route, delivered vegetables, raised chickens," he said in a 2010 interview with The Times.
In the early 1960s, he founded the Landmark Corp. and began building homes. He told The Times in 2010 the business was the "biggest builder in Lake County for years." He went on to build luxury apartment buildings.
Over the years, he was recognized with awards and honors, including being inducted into the Northwest Indiana Business & Industry Hall of Fame in 2010, received the Individual Philanthropist Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Northwest Indiana Chapter in 2010 and the Lifetime Achievement Award from One Region in 2014.
Dye also served as the board president of TradeWinds Services, Inc. and was a lifetime board member.
The James & Betty Dye Youth Center was named in Dye's honor after he donated $1 million to the organization when it moved to Merrillville.
“Jim is one of the most important people in TradeWinds history, if not the most important. (He was a) 40-year board member. He was in the initial class of lifetime board members. He volunteered his time and resources to TradeWinds," TradeWinds CEO Jon Gold said.
Gold added the family also has been instrumental to the organization.