Finding something positive in the wake of a tragedy can often seem impossible, but through the passing of former Saint Ignatius student, Thomas F. Koch, the opportunity arose for less fortunate students to attend Saint Ignatius High School. In many cases, this rare opportunity changed the course of their lives forever and helped mold the students into young men.
Thomas F. Koch was a sophomore at Saint Ignatius in 1985, when he passed away from a rare form of bone cancer. Thomas (or Tom/Tommy as he was known by family and friends) was an excellent student and accomplished athlete representing Saint Ignatius on the football field, basketball court, as well as on the track team. Tom embodied the school’s mission to form a boy into a man for others.
Tom’s brother, John A. Koch, Jr. ’86 describes him as “that rare breed of person, who truly wanted the light to shine on others, always going out of his way to include the timid or inspire the insecure classmate. He had every gift imaginable, with the exception of the gift of time.”
In 1986, Tom’s parents were approached by then Saint Ignatius President, Rev. Robert J. Welsh, S.J. ’54 about naming the alumni golf outing after Tom. The family felt it would be a wonderful way to memorialize Tom, while supporting the institution that was so important him.
Since its infancy in the 1980s, the Alumni Golf Outing has grown into a major event. Two golf courses are utilized to support over 200 participants each year “The alumni golf outing has blossomed into a beautiful legacy for our brother and our family,” says Tom’s eldest sister, Terry.
“The golf tournament brings alumni together, while at the same time preserving the memory of our brother. I have friends who have played in the alumni golf outing every year because they were connected to our brother or our family.”
Over the years, the Thomas F. Koch Memorial Scholarship Fund has blossomed as well. Each year a committee from the Advancement and Admissions Offices choose the recipient of the Thomas F. Koch Memorial Scholarship based on financial need. The committee reviews a scholarship candidates test scores and academic background, in addition to the amount of financial assistance the student requires. The Koch family does not participate in choosing the scholarship recipient, however the family does like to see the scholarship awarded to a single parent home that is truly in need. Once a student is awarded the scholarship as a freshman, this student is known as the “Thomas F. Koch Scholar” until he graduates. Every year, Tom’s parents, Barbara and John, receive letters from scholarship recipients expressing their gratitude for the financial assistance the scholarship afforded them and how their Saint Ignatius High School experience changed their life.
The Koch family is still actively involved in many facets of the Saint Ignatius Alumni Golf Outing. Tom’s Uncle, Bob Koch ’64 was the Alumni Golf Committee Chairman for many years, before his son Bob Koch, Jr. ’96 assumed the role of Alumni Golf Committee Chairman some years ago. Tom’s other sister, Mary Karen, is the only non-alumnus and female to serve on the Saint Ignatius Golf Committee. Mike Gaul ’64, uncle to Tom, has played in the Alumni Golf Outing for many years with family members, including his son Mike Gaul, Jr. ’89. “The Alumni Golf Outing has united generations of our family in honoring the memory and values of our brother, as well as the high school that was so important to him,” says Tom’s sister Mary Karen.
To donate to the Thomas F. Koch Scholarship Fund, please visit www.ignatius.edu/give and designate your gift to the Thomas F. Koch Scholarship Fund
“While our brother’s life was tragically cut short, his legacy and memory continue to shine in our hearts and within the walls of Saint Ignatius High School,” says John.