Gunther N. Kohn, BSBA ’50, a dear friend and supporter of Olin Business School, a business leader, and a philanthropist, passed away May 16, 2015, at the age of 88.
Gunther Kohn’s story is one of tragedy, courage, and determination. Born to Jewish parents in Berlin in 1926, his mother died when he was 10. While Kohn was attending boarding school, he—along with all Jewish children—was sent back to Berlin in 1938, where he was placed in a Jewish orphanage. Shortly before he was scheduled to be sent to a concentration camp, Kohn was rescued by a family friend,who bought him a ticket on the last ship leaving Germany before war wasdeclared. Kohn, whose sisters had been sent to South America, reunited with his father in New York City after the voyage.
With help from the National Council of Jewish Women, Kohn and his father settled in St. Joseph, Missouri, a few years later. After graduating from high school, Kohn joined the US Army to help his new home country in the war effort. Because he spokenative German, he was recruited by the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the CIA. Kohn found himself back in Berlin, doing undercover work to find war criminals and bring them to justice.
After the war, Kohn relocated to St. Louis and studied accounting at Washington University under the GI Bill. After graduation, he took a job selling business forms and started what would become the Jerome Group, a commercial print and direct mail company. Kohn grew the company to more than 300 employees and sold it in 2006, assuming the position of chairman of the board.
Having lived as a displaced person after the Holocaust, Kohn wanted this story to be told and understood. With his wife Doris, he helped establish the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center in Creve Coeur, Missouri, by contributing to the creation of learning stations that tell the stories of Holocaust survivors.
Kohn and his wife Doris have been longtime generous supporters of Olin Business School and were founding sponsors of Olin’s Scholars in Business Scholarship Program.Kohn received a Distinguished Alumni award from Olin Business School in 2000.
His family and many friends have established the Gunther N. Kohn Memorial Scholarship in his honor. If you wish to make a gift in support of this scholarship, please call Nancy Barter at 314-935-9053.
Gunther Kohn is survived by his wife Doris, of 64 years, his daughter Julie (Dan Swift), son Andy (Diana), his sister Rita, and four grandsons.
Image at top: The Kohns help Dean Bob Virgil break ground for Simon Hall in 1984.
This obituary first appeared in the OlinBusiness magazine; read more here.