Dr. Darwin Shane Koch, who had won the 2021 Mentor Award, passed away after a battle with cancer on May 14th, 2021. This passing, however, did not define the life and legacy that lives on. Through his professional work, he was able to secure several grants and created projects that supported hundreds of individuals over his tenure. Although his academic career spanned decades, serving in many roles within and outside of behavior analysis, his true impact was felt in how he supported his students and clients.
Dr. Koch taught us to treat difficult situations “as an opportunity for spiritual growth” fostering an openness to obstacles and adversities that came with trying to change the world. In doing so, he encouraged us to examine systems that didn’t work and figure out ways to, with the resources we had, best support the people we served in the way that they wanted to be supported – not the way we “thought” they should be supported, based on our own unique experiences. In encouraging this approach, Dr. Koch shaped the heuristic problem solving behavior necessary to foster creativity, genuine empathy, and positive regard for others values. These lessons taught us that (1) there are many possible avenues of success, (2) success is contextual and should be defined by those we serve, (3) it is OK to be frustrated along the process of change but that (4) we need to keep striving for excellence in order to create environments of success for everyone.
Dr. Koch challenged everything we thought we “knew”, asking us to defend positions that were not our own at first, sharing stories about folks he had met in his lifetime, and teaching us how to be compassionate, thoughtful, and genuine people. These lessons, his jokes, the laughs we shared, the tears, his impressions, and his care for the well-being of everyone around him are precious moments that hold great value in all of our hearts.
Following are some words from those who worked closely with him, and shared many of these wonderful memories: