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An Incomparable Spirit: Herb Kohler, Jr. '57

The Choate Rosemary Hall community honors the life of Herbert V. Kohler, Jr. ’57. Mr. Kohler brought a spirit of innovation and inspiration to his leadership role within the Choate community. As Head of School Alex D. Curtis noted in a letter to the Kohler family:

“From the moment he set foot on campus, Herb began to change this place and his legacy will continue for many generations to come. While we are all grateful for his generous support of the school, his greatest gifts were his incredible hard work on behalf of the school in so many different arenas, his leadership as Chair of the Board of Trustees, his foresight in creating the Kohler Environmental Center, and, most importantly, his friendship to us all.”

As a member of the Board of Trustees from 1994-2011 and as Board Chair from 2005-2011, Mr. Kohler contributed to campus in so many ways, including his support of the 2011 capital campaign, An Opportunity to Lead, the largest capital campaign in Choate Rosemary Hall’s history. Among other achievements, the Opportunity to Lead campaign allowed Choate to fund its Teaching & Learning Center, the Robotics program, and the Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies program, as well as renovate several buildings on campus and build new dormitories and residences. 

While Mr. Kohler’s contributions to campus far outweigh a single building, the Kohler Environmental Center (KEC) is a true representation of the indomitable spirit of commitment and forethought that Mr. Kohler brought to every new project. Home to the school’s Environmental Immersion Program, the 31,800-square-foot academic and residential facility, designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects, is tucked into 266 wooded acres, is LEED Platinum certified, and has net-zero energy usage. It can accommodate up to 20 students for a sustainable living and learning experience. Mr. Kohler provided the inspiration, financial support, and design direction for the KEC. At the dedication ceremony in 2012, he remarked, “We believe that these students, by living in community with daily focus on their environment through the sciences and the arts, will develop a leadership capacity, and that over generations they will bring substantial influence to the way others treat this planet. I am delighted with the potential for improving sustainability that this Center represents and I am confident it will do so.”

As noted in an interview with Dr. Beth Fecko-Curtis in 2017, Mr. Kohler said that it was his company’s mission “to live on the leading edge of design and technology. That’s not easy to determine, but you have to know where the edge is so that you can improve upon it. You never want to copy what is already out there – you have to advance it in a meaningful way.” In the Kohler Environmental Center, the spirit of Mr. Kohler’s mission came to life, combining new technology with intentionality to inspire students to think more deeply about the environment. In the decade since its dedication, the KEC has taught students how to live more sustainably and in harmony with the natural world. The KEC has had a tremendous impact on the campus community and has inspired a generation of young people to follow in the spirit of innovation and environmental awareness Mr. Kohler embraced.