Béla Heinrich Bánáthy was an Hungarian-American linguist, and Professor at San Jose State University and UC Berkeley. He is known as founder of the White Stag Leadership Development Program, established the International Systems Institute in 1982, and was co-founder of the General Evolutionary Research Group in 1984.He grew up in largely rural Hungary and served in the Hungarian military during World War II. When Russia invaded Hungary in April 1945, he and his family fled to Allied-occupied Austria and lived in a displaced persons camp for six years. In 1951, they emigrated to Chicago, sponsored by the Presbyterian church. Within the year his former commanding officer suggested to the U.S. government that they hire Bánáthy as a Hungarian instructor at the Army Language School in Monterey, California. While living in Monterey, he founded the White Stag Leadership Development Program.
His program gained national attention, and the Boy Scouts of America conducted research into incorporating leadership training into its programs. The Boy Scouts of America's Wood Badge and junior leader training programs had until then focused primarily on Scoutcraft skills, not leadership. William "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt among others resisted the change.
After 20 years, Bánáthy left the renamed Defense Language Institute and went to work for the Far West Laboratory for Research and Development in Berkeley and later San Francisco. He retired from Far West in 1989 but maintained an active interest in social systems and science, including attending many conferences and advising students and others in those fields. In 1992, he helped restart the Hungarian Scout Association within his native country. In 2003, Bánáthy and Eva moved to live with their son Tibor in Chico, California. After a brief and unexpected illness, Bánáthy died on September 4, 2003.