• Who is David Koch?

    By: Jared Leone, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:

    Billionaire businessman and philanthropist David Koch boarded a flight that changed his life in 1991.

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    Within seconds of landing in Los Angeles, USAir Flight 1493 from Columbus collided with a small commuter plane that was erroneously directed onto the same runway. 

    The 737 carrying 89 passengers skidded off the runway, crashed into a utility building and caught on fire. David Koch was one of three people in first class on the plane. As plumes of thick smoke filled the cabin, he somehow managed to free himself. He made his way through the plane, found a service door and worked the latch free. He jumped to the tarmac and ran. 

    All 12 passengers on the commuter plane died and 22 passengers on David Koch’s flight died. David Koch went to a hospital with badly burned lungs and minor cuts but overall was OK. 

    “That I was saved when all those others died,” David Koch told New York Magazine in 2010 about the incident. “I felt that 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 Koch, known for funneling billions of dollars into conservative, educational and philanthropic causes, died Friday. 

    But, who is David Koch?

    David and his twin brother, William Koch, were born the third and fourth sons of Fred Koch and Mary Robinson. 

    David Koch studied chemical engineering at MIT. He also played basketball, scoring a school record 41 points in a game. He worked in Cambridge before moving to New York in 1967 to work at Scientific Design Company. 

    Fred Koch died in 1967, leaving David Koch’s older brother Charles Koch in charge of Koch Industries, which he still runs.

    David Koch started at Koch Industries in 1970 and served in various roles, expanding the company into the country’s second largest behind Cargill. The company refines crude oil and makes products ranging from iPhone components to paper towels. David Koch retired from his roles in 2018 because of his declining health.

    The brothers' wealth is estimated at $50.5 billion each, which they have poured into conservative politics. 

    David Koch ventured into politics decades ago. He was the vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party in 1980, where he got 1% of the vote. He left the party in 1984, according to New York Magazine.

    They founded the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a group promoting small government. It has about 3 million members across 36 states and includes about 700 donors who commit to donate at least $100,000 a year, USA Today reported. David Koch left the board in 2018. 

    David Koch was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1992 and was told he had only a few years left to live. 

    “I like to engage where my part makes a difference,” David Koch told The Weekly Standard in 2012. “I have a point of view. When I pass on, I want people to say he did a lot of good things, he made a real difference, he saved a lot of lives in cancer research.”

    David Koch donated $100 million in 2007 to create the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    He also gave millions to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In 2008, he gave $100 million to the Lincoln Center and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and the M.D. Anderson Cancer in Houston.

    He also gave generously to educational and cultural groups. 

    He has donated more than $35 million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, including $15 million to fund a 15,000-square-foot wing showing the story of human evolution over 6 million years. He also donated $20 million to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. 

    “I was taught from a young age that involvement in the public discourse is a civic duty,” David Koch wrote in a 2012 column in the New York Post. “Each of us has a right — indeed, a responsibility, at times — to make his or her views known to the larger community in order to better form it as a whole. While we may not always get what we want, the exchange of ideas betters the nation in the process.”

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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