After serving as a mentor for the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership for nearly 15 years, Peter Koch is being awarded the first ever Excellence in Mentoring in America Award for Individual Leadership by the MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership in Washington, D.C.
An award ceremony will be held Jan. 23 at the Library of Congress during the third annual National Mentoring Summit, and despite his busy schedule, Koch said he would “absolutely” attend the ceremony.
“Two of my daughters already booked tickets,” he said during a phone interview last week. “They want to go, too.”
Koch, the CEO of Koch Eye Associates, plans to head to D.C. the day before the event to have dinner with a few college friends from Holy Cross who live in the area. He is looking forward to touring the city, and will make stops at the Museum of Science, as well as other places.
He also hopes he’ll get the chance to meet Michelle Obama, as it’s rumored she’ll be in attendance. But for the most part, he’s excited to represent the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership, which nominated him for the national award.
Additionally, two other awards will be presented that evening. They include one for Civic Leadership in Mentoring, and Corporate Leadership in Mentoring. Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Humanities Medal, will offer remarks. More than 150 executives from various organizations are expected to be present.
While Koch is receiving the honor, he credited “all the wonderful people of the organization,” from President and COO Jo-Ann Schofield to former president and CEO Arlene McNulty, as well as mentors and individuals behind the scenes who “work tirelessly” to make the Partnership a success.
“Those are the people that this award is for,” he said.
In turn, Schofield said the Partnership nominated Koch for the award due to his longtime commitment to advancing the success of young people through quality mentoring relationships.
“Words cannot express how excited we are about this well-deserved recognition for Peter on the national stage,” Schofield said via email.
In a letter sent to Koch, National Partnership CEO David Shapiro echoed Schofield’s sentiments, noting that Koch’s commitment is “a model for individual involvement in quality in mentoring.”
Bob Weygand, vice president of administration and finance at the University of Rhode Island and a member of the Rhode Island Mentoring Board, also spoke highly of Koch, saying he believes Koch won the award for his “undying and totally dedicated spirit in helping children.”
“He’s been a phenomenal supporter of the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership, but more importantly, he’s been a mentor himself,” Weygand said. “He provides his time, he provides financial support, and provides leadership to the organization, which is truly very, very special. And he’s a special guy.”
Weygand, who along with Koch participated as a dancer in the Partnership’s annual Dancing with the Stars of Mentoring event, thanked Koch for getting him involved with the organization. As good friends, Koch invited him to the first dancing competition more than seven years ago, where Koch was a competitor.
“He was hilariously funny and entertaining, and I got hooked just watching him,” Weygand said. “They invited me to be a member of the board that year, and I did.” A few years later, Weygand appeared as a contestant. “If we could have more people like Peter Koch, more students would be better students, better adults, and better human beings.”
Through the years, Koch has mentored a handful of children. A week before Christmas, he had dinner with a man he used to mentor as a child. Now, he’s grown up, and recently got married.
“I was out of town for his wedding, but I got to see their honeymoon pictures from when they went to Disney,” said Koch. “He was so proud showing them to me. It was great.”
Koch and his wife Marite, who have been married for 39 years, have four children. As a parent, he is happy he is able to help other children who need a positive role model, and encouraging them to believe in themselves.
“If I had the chance to help someone else, I wanted to do that, also,” he said.
So, how did he feel when he found out he won the award?
“I was absolutely dumbfounded,” Koch said. “You don’t get involved in a great charity to win an award. You do it because you have a passion for it. You give it all you’ve got because you believe in it.”