Olin to honor Dean’s Medalists on April 4: Roger and Fran Koch, Paul and Elke Koch

  • March 26, 2024
  • By Jill Young Miller
  • 3 minute read

WashU Olin Business School will honor four Koch family members on Thursday, April 4, as the 2024 Dean’s Medalists.

They are: Paul Koch (BSBA 1961, JD 1964, MBA 1968) and his wife, Elke Koch; and Roger Koch (BSBA 1964, MBA 1966) and his wife, Fran Koch. Paul and Roger are brothers.

The Dean’s Medal is a tradition that honors friends of Olin who have contributed valuable time, service and dedication to the school. The four Kochs have been ardent supporters of Washington University for almost four decades.

The honorees “have been extremely generous and helpful in pursuing big ambitions,” Dean Mike Mazzeo said. “The Kochs made a significant investment to create the Koch Center for Family Enterprise, and that center is dedicated to studying the distinctive features of family-owned businesses and serving the family business community.”

They will be honored April 4 because of their dedication to advancing not only Washington University and Olin, but also the impact they are making in the region.

Focus on family business

Some background: Years ago, the Koch brothers established what became Koch Development Co., a St. Louis-based developer and manager of commercial real estate and owner/operator of select entertainment attractions.

Their experience growing their business and arranging for a generational transition led to their interest in deepening Olin’s focus on family businesses. In 2016, they and their spouses established a family business initiative at Olin with a $1.09 million gift. In 2019, they provided gifts and commitments of more than $9 million to create what is now the Koch Center for Family Enterprise and its associated directorship and professor of practice.

The center is dedicated to studying the distinctive features of family-owned businesses—and serving the family business community with programs and insights for improving business practices. The Koch Center’s mission is to produce world-class research, enable transformative educational experiences and facilitate impact across the holistic family enterprise, including family business, family office and family philanthropy.

The Kochs also wanted to raise awareness about the complexities and opportunities in family business, and to engage students in understanding the rich career potential within the family business ecosystem.

A turtle on a stump

“If you look at a turtle on a stump, you know that somebody helped him up there,” Paul Koch said. “He didn't climb up there himself. We're turtles on a stump. We had parents who were hard working, who were honest and who had education as a value. Then we went to Washington University. And they pushed us further in our understanding and knowledge of business. We want to make sure that other people are able to enjoy the real pleasure of being in private business that we've had.”

A key component of the family business initiative is an annual symposium focused on the topic of closely held and family-owned businesses. In February, the 8th Annual Family Enterprise Symposium, hosted by the Koch Center, explored strategies of transition for private, family-owned businesses amid a tidal wave of ownership transitions underway as Baby Boom founders age toward retirement.

When I think about the Koch’s legacy, I think one piece of it should be centered around its impact on the region,” said Peter Boumgarden, the center’s director and the Koch Family Professor of Practice. St. Louis is filled with privately held companies, family philanthropists, and family offices seeking ways to drive impact through their work.

“The second way to think about their impacts, I think, is on students. For many of us, the legacy that we seek is not merely in names and buildings or plaques. It's in the people that we impact and the places that we love and care about. And, in many ways, that's where the Kochs’ legacy will live on.”

2024 Dean's Medalists

The honorees: Paul Koch and his wife, Elke Koch; and Roger Koch and his wife, Fran Koch.

About the Author

Jill Young Miller

Jill Young Miller

As research translator for WashU Olin Business School, my job is to highlight professors’ research by “translating” their work into stories. Before coming to Olin, I was a communications specialist at WashU’s Brown School. My background is mostly in newspapers including as a journalist for Missouri Lawyers Media, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida.

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