DA alum David Koch dies

  • David Koch speaks in Orlando, Fla., in 2013. AP FILE PHOTO

  • The Deerfield Academy administration building in Old Deerfield. Staff FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/24/2019 1:00:25 AM
Modified: 8/24/2019 1:00:11 AM

DEERFIELD — Deerfield Academy is, for the second time this month, mourning the death of a former student who came from a powerful American family.

David Koch, the libertarian billionaire businessman who graduated from the prestigious institution in 1958, died at age 79 on Friday morning, three weeks after 22-year-old Saoirse Kennedy Hill of the famed Kennedy political clan died on the family’s Cape Cod compound shortly before her senior year at Boston College.

David Thiel, assistant head of school for strategy and planning at Deerfield Academy, said Koch’s death is additional sad news for the school founded in 1797.

“David’s generosity improved the lives and learning of thousands of Deerfield students, from every walk of life,” Thiel said in a statement. “The positive impact he had on our community will be felt for many years.”

Koch was a benefactor to Deerfield Academy, consistently donating money to his alma mater. The school’s natatorium (a building containing a swimming pool) and science center are named after him, as is the 20,000-square-foot field house inside the $68 million, state-of-the-art athletics complex dedicated in the fall. Thiel would not confirm or deny whether Koch was involved in clubs or sports, as is the academy’s policy.

Koch’s death was announced by Charles Koch, the other half of the politically influential Koch brothers.

“Anyone who worked with David surely experienced his giant personality and passion for life,” Charles Koch said in a statement. “Twenty-seven years ago, David was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and given a grim prognosis of a few years to live. David liked to say that a combination of brilliant doctors, state-of-the-art medications and his own stubbornness kept the cancer at bay. We can all be grateful that it did, because he was able to touch so many more lives as a result.”

Koch is survived by his wife, Julia Flesher Koch, and his three children.

According to The Associated Press, Koch joined Koch Industries, co-founded by his father, in 1970 and served on its board. He held degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also ran unsuccessfully for vice president on the Libertarian Party’s ticket in 1980.

In 2004, he and Charles founded the advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, which lobbies for right-wing causes. He also served as CEO of Koch Chemical Technology Group LLC, a Koch subsidiary, according to the AP. He retired as the company’s executive vice president last year, citing declining health.

David and Charles Koch, each with an estimated net worth of $50.5 billion, were tied for 11th place on the Forbes 500 list of the country’s richest men in 2019. According to the AP, David Koch had said his philanthropy was inspired by his near-death experience in February 1991 when two airliners collided on the runway at Los Angeles International Airport, killing about 35 people.

He donated $100 million in 2007 to create a cancer research institute at MIT. He also gave millions to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and other institutions.

The Lincoln Center theater that houses the New York City Ballet became the David H. Koch Theater in 2008 after he contributed $100 million. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History opened a wing in his name dedicated to human evolution after he donated $15 million.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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