Oxbow Carbon LLC Founder and Chief Executive Officer Bill Koch, MIT ’62, will accept Beta’s highest honor for professional achievement, the Oxford Cup, on Saturday at the 184th Convention Celebration Banquet. The businessman, entrepreneur, champion sailor, art collector and philanthropist is one of three Koch brothers to join the Beta Upsilon Chapter, and Bill will also accept the Oxford Cup posthumously on behalf of his twin brother and former executive vice president of Koch Industries, David ’62.
David Koch, longtime stockholder, director and leader in Koch Industries, was an all-American athlete, chief executive officer, U.S. vice-presidential candidate, cancer fighter, plane crash survivor, extremely generous philanthropist, devoted husband and proud father.
Koch, who retired in 2018 as executive vice president of Koch Industries, was the third of four brothers – Frederick; Charles; and William, his fraternal twin. Upon graduating from Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts in 1959, Koch attended MIT, where he was initiated into the Beta Upsilon Chapter of Beta Theta Pi as Roll No. 528 on February 15, 1959. He earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering and became captain of the basketball team and a small college all-American. In 1962, he set the school record by scoring 41 points in a single game – a mark that stood for 46 years.
In 1970, Koch joined the family business as a technical services manager at Koch Engineering, later Koch Chemical Technology Group (KCTG), becoming its president in 1979. Over the years, David and his team at KCTG, now Koch Engineered Solutions (KES), grew the process equipment and engineering business 50-fold. Today, KES employs more than 5,000 people in multiple businesses providing equipment and services that improve the quality of fuels, chemicals and foods while increasing energy efficiency and lowering emissions.
The same year that David assumed leadership of Koch Engineering he became the Libertarian Party’s candidate for vice president of the United States. He and Ed Clark, the presidential candidate, ran on a platform that advocated for individual rights and against the oppression and harassment of people based on sexual orientation. They also proposed eliminating policies that were stifling innovation, competition and opportunity for the least advantaged.
On February 1, 1991, Koch was aboard a USAir flight when it collided with a SkyWest plane upon landing at Los Angeles International Airport. Altogether, 35 people died and 29 were injured. He survived, barely escaping the burning cabin through a galley door.
A year after surviving the plane disaster, David learned he had prostate cancer. Despite many treatments, the cancer was never completely cured.
In total, Koch pledged or contributed $1.3 billion to cancer research, medical centers, educational institutions, arts and cultural centers, and public policy organizations. His largest donations were to create medical research centers and patient facilities, including MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Other major recipients included Johns Hopkins, Stanford University Hospital, the Mount Sinai Medical Center, and the Hospital for Special Surgery.
Buoyed by a lifelong appreciation for arts and culture instilled by his mother, Koch also made major gifts to the Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and the Mary R. Koch Arts Center in Wichita, Kansas.
By 2018, Koch was listed as No. 7 on Forbes’ 400 Most Wealthy Americans list, with an estimated net worth of $59 billion. He passed away on August 23, 2019, at age 79 after many years of fighting various illnesses.
It was his legacy of helping others that mattered most to Koch. During his interview with Barbara Walters, the accomplished businessman, engineer, and philanthropist summed up what he hoped might appear on his epitaph: “I’d like it to say that David Koch did his best to make the world a better place and that he hopes his wealth will help people long after he has passed away.”
Along with his biological and fraternal Beta brothers, Charles and William, Koch served as honorary co-chairman and provided a major leadership gift during Beta Upsilon Chapter’s recent $2.4 million capital campaign for the house renovation and chapter reestablishment.
William “Bill” Koch excels at many things. He is recognized as an entrepreneur, champion sailor (winner of the 1992 America’s Cup and four world championships), art collector and philanthropist, but he is, first and foremost, founder and chief executive officer of Oxbow Carbon LLC. His business acumen set the stage for the company’s unprecedented growth, making it the world’s largest producer of calcined coke, a key ingredient in the manufacturing of aluminum, and a key supplier of sulphur, sulphuric acid and fertilizers.
Koch’s successes extend beyond the boardroom and into the realms of philanthropy, art, education and the community. He founded and funded for the state of Kansas an independent crime commission devoted to studying the root causes of juvenile crime; he has founded an innovative private high school; and he has loaned his world class art collection to museums around the globe.
A native of Wichita, Kansas, Koch comes from a family steeped in entrepreneurship. The youngest of four brothers – Frederick; Charles; and David, his fraternal twin – he graduated from Culver Military Academy before following in his father’s footsteps by attending MIT, where he earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering. There, he was initiated into the Beta Upsilon Chapter of Beta Theta Pi as Roll No. 530 on February 15, 1959.
In 1968, Koch joined his family’s business, running the carbon trading group and the chemical and venture capital divisions. He left in 1983 to start his own company, which became the basis for Oxbow Carbon LLC. Through the years, he has created a multi-national business which has generated an annual rate of return of nearly 30 percent and been consistently ranked as one of the top 500 privately held companies in the United States by Forbes Magazine.
Koch’s approach to business stems from his “T3” philosophy – teamwork, technology and talent – to which he credits his victory in the 1992 America’s Cup, the most coveted prize in professional sailing.
Ranked as one of the 25 most generous individuals in the United States by The Journal of Philanthropy in 2011, Koch may be best remembered for his mission to help less fortunate children receive a high-level education. Over the years, he has contributed money, time and energy to help individuals, teachers and classrooms get the support they need. He has donated musical instruments and tutoring help to disadvantaged children in Palm Beach County, computers and software for children with learning disabilities, and funded science programs around the world. With a donation of $60 million to start Oxbridge Academy, a private high school in West Palm Beach, Mr. Koch’s greatest satisfaction was seeing the doors open in 2011.
Along with his biological and fraternal Beta brothers, Charles and David, Koch provided a major leadership gift during Beta Upsilon Chapter’s recent $2.4 million capital campaign for the house renovation and chapter reestablishment.
The Fraternity awards the Oxford Cup in recognition of achievement of the highest order by a Beta. Recipients must be loyal members of Beta Theta Pi who have brought honor to the Fraternity through distinguished service and accomplishments in their chosen professional fields. The Oxford Cup was developed in 1984 by then-President Peter E. Van de Water, St. Lawrence ’58, and General Secretary B. Hume Morris, Centre ’68. Brother Morris also wrote the award ceremony and designed the Cup, a smaller version of the Pater Knox Golden Wedding Anniversary Loving Cup.