Meet David Hamilton Koch

By, Ava Roosevelt

Koch-David-photographOne of the most generous, low-key philanthropists in America, a married father of three, David Hamilton Koch has donated during the course of his life over a billion dollars to charity.

Philanthropist, political activist,  MIT educated chemical engineer, and former basketball player, David is an executive vice president of Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in the United States that employs 50,000 people in the U.S. alone. He is also the fourth richest person in America as of 2012, and the second richest resident of New York City as of 2010.

We met in our single days, in Washington at the Senatorial Dining Room, during David’s bid for Vice-President in the 1980 Presidential Election and we have remained friends ever since. The then Libertarian’s Party’s VP candidate shared a ticket with presidential candidate Ed Clark and received 1.06 percent of the total nationwide vote, the Libertarian Party’s best showing to date. David broke with the Libertarian party in 1984 and has been a Republican ever since. Yet, from a 32-year perspective, and with all that went wrong with the Republicans in 2012, a chance to recover from the defeat to President Obama seems like a tall order.

Time Magazine included David and his brother Charles among the 100 most influential people in 2011, but meeting David you’ll never know what actions have earned him this distinction. Apart from David’s family life, his accomplishments are vast, life-changing and have created tens of thousands of jobs.

David’s concerns about Obamacare, run-away government spending, looming inflation, and rising interest rates are well known. He’s in favor of individual liberty, lower taxes and smaller government. After surviving a plane crash in 1991, he said, “I felt like the good Lord spared my life for a purpose. And since then I’ve been busy doing all the good works I can think of.”

David clearly believes in a better America, a prosperous one, and yet he is wildly criticized for conservative views which many share with each other quite openly without so much scrutiny. Personally, I’ll never know how it feels to be singled out because of one’s wealth, but I can’t fathom it not being a good feeling in David’s case, since he has been sharing his good fortunes so selflessly.

Koch’s name is not only synonymous with a colossal affluence estimated to be a hundred billion dollars (and the power it yields) but, also seldom has one man, in one generation, donated so much to so many diversified causes as David H. Koch has done over the years.

Should you take a stroll in Manhattan, whether you’re an art devotee, ballet enthusiast or simply love to take your kids to see dinosaurs, the hard-to-miss monuments of David’s generosity, the American Museum of Natural History David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing, The New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, home of the New York City Ballet, now renamed David H. Koch Theater, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s outdoor fountains, are all in plain view and inspire awe and respect. Yet, it might be generations before David H. Koch’s charity is fully appreciated.

When last year, Koch’s family treasured Christmas card did not arrive, I called David.

“David, have I fallen off ‘the list’?”

“We are keeping a low profile,” David answered. “You’ll receive a Valentine’s Day card instead.”

As promised, the Valentine’s Day card materialized. The sight of David surrounded by Julia his wife of 17 years, and their three children, depicted a barefooted, casually attired family, not unlike yours or mine. If I didn’t know any better, I would dare to contradict F. Scott Fitzgerald to say that the rich are not different from you and me.

“Lord knows I don’t need a job,” David was quoted as saying in a recent interview, yet he reports to his office every day at 9 a.m., and will usually leave by 7 p.m. “I love business,” Koch says. “My brother Charles and I are going to be carried out of our offices feet first. We’ll work until we drop.”

Fortunately for our generation and those to come, the massive fortune generated by fierce work habits (instilled by his father Fred and the Koch brothers’ business savvy extraordinaire) is put to work to promote research to eradicate cancer and to inspire us, while living, supporting theaters, music and ballet. David has contributed to the Public Broadcasting Systems (PBS), to the Smithsonian, to Deerfield Academy, to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and he was honored with the Double Helix Medal for Corporate Leadership. It is not without reason that, since 2006, the Chronicle of Philanthropy has listed Koch as one of the world’s top 50 philanthropists.

Should you be one of the handpicked recipients of the most coveted invitation in Palm Beach, The Coconuts’ New Year’s Eve party, you’ll never forget the almost hour-long pyrotechnical and musical  extravaganza provided by David’s generous contribution (worthy of Monte Carlo’s heydays) to be seen for miles by all residents of the Palm Beaches.

In 1992 David was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  On August 31, 1997, (the night of Princess Diana’s untimely death), David, surrounded by his family and friends, celebrated five-cancer-free years at his house in Southampton, an evening all of us present will never forget.  The music and the fireworks stopped with Diana’s passing but David’s tireless quest to find the cure for cancer continues.

Since 200O, David H. Koch Charitable Foundation has pledged more than $750 million to cancer research, educational  and cultural institutions, arts, public policy studies and medical centers, such as John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, the David H. Koch Cancer Research Building, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the Hospital of Special Surgery in New York City, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, New-York Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center, a new ambulatory care center at New York–Presbyterian Hospital and MIT, his alma mater.

Thanks to David’s bequests, countless lives are saved daily, but it wasn’t until my late husband, Bill Roosevelt, was diagnosed with prostate cancer himself that the scope of David’s generosity got personal and truly hit home. I credit him (and I am eternally grateful) for prolonging Bill’s life by facilitating access to the newest treatments at the time, including experimental ones.

On December 13, 2013, David’s being honored at Palm Beach’s Mar-a-Lago Making Cancer History Award Gala, which also celebrates the life of the late Maria Floyd.

For more information, please visit: events@mdanderson.com

“David Koch is a great American and a wonderful human being,” said Donald Trump.

“I concur with Mr. Trump’s view, whole- heartedly.”  ~ Ava Roosevelt.

Meet David Hamilton Koch