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Billionaire David Koch gives $35 million to Natural History Museum

May 04, 2012|By Jamie Wetherbe
  • The current dinosaur hall at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
The current dinosaur hall at the Smithsonian's National Museum of… (Chip Clark / Associated…)

David H. Koch's deep philanthropic pockets will benefit dinosaurs.

The executive vice president of Koch Industries has donated $35 million to the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution announced Thursday.

The gift will go to the 30-year-old dinosaur hall, which museum officials say has long been in need of renovations.

Koch, a member of the museum’s advisory board, previously gave $15 million to the museum’s David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins. Thursday's gift marks the largest single donation to the Natural History Museum -- perhaps because fossils have long piqued Koch's interests.

“It goes way back,” Koch told the Washington Post. “I went to my first dinosaur hall with my father and twin brother. We went to the American Museum of Natural History, and I was blown away by the dinosaurs.”

Koch, whose estimated worth is $25 billion, has donated millions to artistic and historic organizations: He gave $20 million to New York's American Museum of Natural History dinosaur exhibit and $100 million for the revamp of the State Theater of New York at Lincoln Center.

The Natural History museum's 25,000-square-foot dinosaur hall holds 46 million fossils -- some date back to the Smithsonian’s debut a century ago. The renovation, which has an estimated price tag of $45 million, is slated for spring 2014 and completion in 2019.

Thursday also marked Koch’s 72nd birthday, but he called the timing of the gift a coincidence. “I had a major birthday two years ago," he said. "I think the party my wife gave is good for 10 years.”

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