Credits Teamwork and Work Ethic for Success
College Education for their Children a Priority
By Haven Miller
come to mind when listing the values personified by students,
faculty, and alumni of our UK College of Agriculture family
hard work, honesty, teamwork, perseverance.
words describe another family, the Koch family (pronounced Cook)
of Bourbon County. Honesty and hard work are the central theme,
and indeed the foundation, of a family story that began in central
Kentucky more than three decades ago.
I was a young single girl, and my sisters and I decided
one Sunday afternoon to drive out to Stoner Creek Farm to visit
a young man one of us knew named Gus Koch, recalled Theresa
Koch. Gus was busy tending to a sick stallion named Count
Fleet, and the last thing he needed was five girls showing up
all a-twitter wanting to see his horses.
Evidently, Gus Koch found time for both his work and the five
sisters particularly one of them. It was the first time
he and Theresa had ever met, and three months later they were
engaged. Five months later they were married.
31 years later, Gus and Theresa live on the famous Claiborne Farm
where Gus is assistant manager in charge of breeding stock. The
couple has ten children: Charles, 31; Jennifer, 30; Becky, 28;
Stephen, 26; Matthew, 24; Anthony, 21; Amy, 19; Cecilia, 18; Gus,
15; and Mary Regina, 12. Four of the children (Charles, Becky,
Stephen, and Matthew) are graduates of the University of Kentucky.
Two, Stephen and Matthew, are UK College of Agriculture alums,
and Anthony is a senior finishing up his degree in agricultural
economics at UK. Cecilia will enter the UK College of Agriculture
this fall. All of them know the meaning of hard work.
tolerate slackers, said Gus. He and Theresa have always
made sure each youngster carries his or her own weight. Part of
their upbringing was, and still is, doing chores on their own
farm in Bourbon County, and also at Claiborne Farm where they
did everything from mucking stalls to weed-eating. Some of the
boys also worked part-time at the local Southern States Co-op
store. The girls worked in town at the hospital, pharmacy, and
courthouse, or at the Claiborne office as a receptionist.
his parents and the Marine Corps for instilling in him the values
he has passed along to his children. I had very good parents
who did a good job of raising their family.
parents also had strong convictions. We were expected to
either go to college or get a job, and if you got a job you were
expected to contribute part of your earnings to the household
finances, said Theresa. I worked as a long-distance
operator for General Telephone, then worked in the Care-By Parent
unit of the UK Medical Center, and then later as a secretary for
a real estate office.
spending some time with alumni at Roundup.
and Theresa married, Gus continued on at Stoner Creek Stud for
a while, then accepted a job offer from E.P. Taylor to work on
Taylors Windfields Farm in Canada. Five years later the
couple moved to Maryland to work on another one of Taylors
farms. Thats where one of Guss charges was the famed
racehorse and sire Northern Dancer. A year later the couple was
back in Kentucky, working for the Hancock family at the renowned
It was the year of the contagious equine metritis scare
and Gus had come down from Maryland to see what our farm was doing
to control the disease, said Claiborne owner Seth Hancock.
I had it in my mind to hire somebody to run the stallion
and brood mare division, and I was pretty impressed with Gus.
Im big on first impressions, and I thought he looked you
in the eye when he talked to you. He also had a good, firm handshake
and asked sensible questions. I also knew Guss dad, so I
knew he came from good stock, and thats important whether
youre breeding horses or hiring people.
That was 24
years ago, and the famous farm that has nurtured the growth of
some of the worlds best equine athletes Secretariat,
Nijinsky, Seeking the Gold, Danzig, to name a few has also
nurtured the growth of an outstanding Kentucky family whose members
embody the spirit of cooperation and teamwork.
were such a big family, everybody had to learn to get along
with one another, and everybody had to pull his or her own weight,
said oldest son Charles, a UK history grad who is employed at
Claiborne. Everyone had responsibilities, and if you said
you were going to do something, you had to do it.
pull-your-own-weight philosophy may have seemed a little tough
at times to the Koch children, they acknowledge that the lessons
learned in youth are now paying off in adult life.
that Im a mother myself, I see the value of what my parents
were teaching us, said Becky (Koch) Mitchell, second oldest
daughter and UK nursing school graduate.
we worked at the farm we learned that horses have to eat and it
didnt matter what day of the week it was they didnt
get a day off and neither did we, said Anthony, whos
a senior in the College of Agriculture.
Those Koch boys worked their tails off for us, said
Seth Hancock proudly. Thats why I knew they were all
going to make it because when they were working here at Claiborne
the other employees would grin and say, Dont put those
guys working beside us they make us look bad!
growing up at Claiborne Farm was a great experience, but he really
didnt think about it in terms of living at a world-famous
place until later years after he got to college and some friends
said, Wow, you live there!
For anyone who knows the Kochs, its not surprising that
all the children are either college graduates, in college, or
college-bound. Education has always been a cornerstone of Koch
family life, and the children were encouraged to excel in elementary
and high school. Through the years the children also pursued a
variety of school activities ranging from band to FFA.
is one of the best organizations at our local high school. It
has played a big role within our family, said Gus. In
addition to Anthony being a state FFA officer and Matthew a regional
president, there were also a number of projects the boys did,
including a nurse mare business where they would lease draft horses
to Claiborne as nurse mares. This also taught them about business.
children play musical instruments and participated in band in
both high school and college. Nine Koch children were in the high
school band, and three played with the UK band.
One of Gus
and Theresas highest priorities has been to ensure a college
education for all 10 children. Some parents might have flinched
at the thought of such a daunting financial challenge, but the
Kochs have met the challenge with creativity, strict guidelines,
and help from the Bourbon County Boys and Girls Funds.
student in Bourbon County is eligible to apply for college funding,
and its a unique, highly effective program that has been
very generous to this family, said Gus. The money
is provided by private donors in the county. Students have to
keep their grades up, and they also go through an application
and interview process to determine how much they will receive.
Theres also another scholarship for the dependents of horse
farm workers thats been extremely helpful to us.
Method of Putting 10 Children through College
Instill a work ethic in your child
Pursue local scholarships
Make a contract with your child
Help pay 50% if child keeps grades up
Child lives on campus
Expect child to work part-time
sons pose behind their father, Gus, in this late 1990s photo.
From left: Gus, Matthew, Charles, Stephen, and Anthony
were such a big family, everybody had to learn to get along
with one another, and everybody had to pull
his or her own weight.Charles Koch
Gus and Theresa Koch address the crowd at the 2001 Scholarship
and Matthew are UK College of Agriculture alums, and Anthony is
a senior finishing up his degree in agricultural economics at
UK. Cecilia will enter the UK College of Agriculture this fall.
All of them know the meaning of hard work.
Gus with son Anthony at Anthonys workplace, Southern
States in Paris.
alone were not enough, the Kochs worked out an innovative arrangement
that involved part-time jobs, parental assistance, and a written
out a contract for every child, starting with Charles, said
Theresa. We figured up what their tuition, board, books
and major expenses were going to be. We deducted their scholarship
money, then went 50-50 with them. But the deal was that they had
to keep their grades up and keep a job, or else they had to foot
the whole bill themselves.
of them toward the end of college have had to borrow a little
money, but theyve all gotten out pretty much debt-free when
they graduated, said Gus. And they worked by gosh,
they learned a work ethic, and thats what we wanted.
home was just 30 minutes away, the Koch collegians all lived on
or near campus. Gus and Theresa believe living on campus is part
of the university experience, and feel one of the great things
about UK is that its just far enough away to sever
the cord, but close enough so that Mom and Dad know whats
going on. They also believe that the College of Agriculture offers
an extremely positive environment in which to learn.
colleges promise personal attention and guidance, but the UK College
of Agriculture delivers, said Gus. For example, after
an uninspired start, Stephen later enrolled in Dr. Loys Mathers
Food and Agricultural Marketing Principles class and suddenly
became challenged and energized. His GPA soared and his ambitions
came into focus. And Dr. Steve Vickners demands for excellence
really inspired him, and today Stephen is an associate sales director
at Keeneland. And I could go on Dr. Lori Garkovich and
Dr. Randy Weckman and Susan Skees and others all helped prepare
our son Matthew in various ways to meet his career goals, and
today hes an officer in the United States Marine Corps.
And Anthony, whos at UK now, has valued the intelligence
of Dr. Lee Maynard, who taught him grains and marketing and futures,
and who inspired Anthony to win a national position with the student
section of the American Association of Ag Economists.
Gus said the
best advertisement for a successful business or college
is a satisfied customer, and that Stephen, Matthew and
Anthony fit the category.
At the urging of these three older brothers, our daughter
Cecilia will start at the College of Agriculture next fall, and
our son Gus, whos a high school freshman, has already expressed
interest in the Ag College when hes old enough to apply,
that in many ways the College of Agriculture promotes the American
values cherished by not just the Kochs but by many Kentucky families,
and that in these challenging times for the nation its more
important than ever for higher education to instill in young people
a sense of honor and purpose.
Theresa and I have taught our children to be true to their
faith, to be upright, and to be good citizens, and the College
of Agriculture reinforces those values, said Gus. We
consider ourselves a farming family, and everybody who knows farming
understands there are good times and also times when things are
tough, and its our values that see us through when the going