It is with great sadness that Pivot Point International, Inc. announces today the passing of its founder and mentor, Leo Passage, as the result of a degenerative lung condition.

Leo Passage truly lived his life to the fullest, motivating everyone who knew him to do the same. He encouraged everyone he met around the world to follow their heart and their dreams.

His personal life mission became his company’s mission: through Pivot Point education Mr. Passage inspired thousands of people around the world. His humility was well known and respected - always sharing with others without self-interest and possessing a timeless, creative spirit.

Mr. Passage discovered his passion for hair design at an early age while watching his father run a hair salon in Belgium. He founded Pivot Point in Chicago, Illinois in 1962 with five students and one classroom. He is credited with changing the concepts behind cosmetology education and shattering the myth that successful designers must be born with an artistic ability. Today, there are schools and advanced centers in 74 countries teaching the "Designer's Approach" to Cosmetology.

VIDEO: Leo Passage: A Passion for Life  (Scroll down for full story)

Passage also developed the L.E.O. Awards to honor alumni of Pivot Point, which stands for Leadership in the salon industry, Excellence in designer education and Outstanding Pivot Point alumni.

As a current cosmetology student at Pivot Point International, just wrapping up my last 50 hours, I personally feel the loss of this incredible man. He always encouraged students to participate in competitions—specifically through his passion of long hair design. My fondest memory of Mr. Passage is last June when, becoming aware of students' struggles to fund hotel rooms for the Premiere Orlando competition, volunteered to pay for all of students' rooms so they could participate in the competition.

Mr. Passage will be deeply missed by his friends and family, all the students' and educators' lives he touched through Pivot Point International, MODERN SALON Media, and the industry as a whole.

Leo’s beloved wife Lenie, his children Robert and Corrine, along with their families, will continue to ensure that the global Pivot Point family continues to advance the empowering mission that Leo started almost 50 years ago.

Visitation: Friday May 13, 2011, 3:00-7:00 pm followed by funeral mass. St. Joan of the Arc, 9248 North Lawndale Avenue, Evanston, IL 60203. A celebration of his life will be held after the mass at the church.

Flowers can be sent to the church or donations can be made to The American Lung Association at

Here's how some of our Facebook fans will remember Mr. Passage, please visit to honor his life and tell us how you will remember him:

Jenny Allen I owe so much of who I am and what I have become as a professional to Leo and PPI. This company has instilled in me the passion and desire to inspire myself and others and to never ever stop learning! I am thankful to be a part of the Pivot Point family and to carry on Leo's vision for the future of our industry!

Dwight Miller Hard to believe someone as as powerful and vibrant a personality would go so young. I worked at PPI three times, starting in '67. Leo was one of my most important mentors, sending me all over the US when I was just in my 20s. Then around the world in the '70s when I returned from 4 years at Sassoon's - London. I've always looked up to Leo, someone I admired and respected. PPI was a revolution in the '60s. Should be a biography written—Leo was as important to the industry's technical and artistic growth through several decades as anyone before or after him. I will miss Leo's friendship. Schools around the world that he inspired & shaped has lost one of the greatest educational influences of all time.

Mioshi Davalos Being an alumni of Pivot Point Evanston, my heart truly hurts. Thanks for everything! Every time we met you were full of compassion I really admired that.

Lisa Luppino I thank Leo Passage for becoming inspired by Bauhaus and committing to the development of a philosophy that gave anyone a chance in this industry. His passion for competition, students and lifelong learning will never die. It lives on in each of us. He is a legend.

Jo Pick I have never been more proud than to tell people I am a part of the elite Pivot Point Alum. Leo was my Hero/Idol and a great mentor to everyone he touched. I am so proud to have been given the chance not only to attend and graduate from the academy and meet him a few times, but also to compete and succeed in representing his honor and legacy in front of hundreds who watched. I am now full of even more pride to be carrying on his legacy in front of thousands as I tour the nation on my journey with Matrix's Spread the Love program. Leo you fueled my fire of passion and art into this industry and I can never thank you enough for the ways in which you and your program changed and influenced my life from a rock bottom to a great success. you will forever be remembered and missed.

Michelle Stull As a former student of Pivot Point I'm so sad to hear of Leo's passing. He was responsible for many of our careers...our successes and who we are as hair stylists. I know his passion will be passed on to future hair stylists.

Kristina Glover Such a sad day for the industry.

Matt Belding I owe absolutely everything that I am to Leo Passage and his dream of Pivot Point. From my immense passion for hair and dedication with my competitors at PPI--it was all inspired by Leo Passage.

Jose Schnekenburger Rest in peace Leo. Without you, my dreams of being a part of this amazing industry would have never come true. He touched the lives of many beauty professionals by giving them the tools to bring there dreams to light. You will be missed greatly Leo, and because of your influence, we will continue to teach others what you have taught us.

Debra Rivera Gandsey Such a sad day for the industry and for the Pivot Point family! Going to Pivot Point was one of the best decisions I ever made and I'm proud to call myself a Pivot Point alum.

Gordon Miller Rest in Peace, Leo Passage, my dearest of friends, long time mentor, business 'father' and Pivot Point founder. He passed peacefully in the hospital last night following a long struggle with a rare lung condition. He fought valiantly for close to a dozen years. Saw him just 2 weeks ago for a long lunch in his office and although physically weak, his mind was as sharp as they come.

Lindsey Venable He was the nicest man I think I've ever met. what a sweetheart :/

Sue Czarny Sosa I have been working for Pivot Point for the last 14 years. Leo Passage was the most wonderful person to work for and just a wonderful human being. He loved his family, and he loved his Pivot Point Family and students. He NEVER gave up on them. I will miss him terribly. It breaks my heart to not have him here and telling me to be strong and letting me know he will always be there for me. His company was built on passion....please carry that on.

Stephanie Adams I too am a former Pivot Point student. I learned the fundamentals of the hair industry from his educational materials. What an inspiration he is and always will be. RIP dear Leo. You have many students who will keep your spirit alive and prosper. Thank you.

Lori Pastor A sad day for our industry.

Rolf Waller My career was greatly influenced by his ideals. He was a family friend and a mentor to me. He will be greatly missed. My love goes out to his wife, daughter and son.