Dick and Barbara Couch are very grateful. Their journey together in life has been filled with good fortune. But they both remember more difficult times when living paycheck to paycheck was more the norm. They will never forget those times and what that felt like, and they know there are far too many families living that way today.
In 1968, as an engineer and recent graduate of the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, Dick started Hypertherm in a garage. The first eight years were challenging financially, but in the early 70’s Dick’s persistence and tenacity began to pay off. Hypertherm went from prototype to a commercial product and the rest is history. Barbara had the privilege of working with Dick first in Human Resources and then Corporate Social Responsibility before founding the Hypertherm HOPE Foundation—the company’s charitable giving arm.
Years later, when it came time to seriously think through the succession of the company, Dick and Barbara considered multiple options. Certainly there was interest from strategic buyers and financial investors. But in the end, they chose an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) model, placing ownership in the hands of the employees—the people who helped build the company and its success. For the Couches this was the right and best option aligning with their belief of sharing rewards. Through the ESOP transaction, the Couches were able to create the Couch Family Foundation.
Why do they call it a “family” Foundation? As parents of three daughters, they believe one of the greatest gifts they could offer their girls was the opportunity to be involved in their circle of philanthropy, the opportunity to learn first-hand the extraordinary joy that comes from giving back. Involving family in the Foundation was a priority.
The Couch Family Foundation is still new and evolving. The Foundation is attempting to be strategic in its giving while focusing on the most important community and societal needs. An important strategic focus area is in the space of early childhood education. The Couches understand firsthand the challenge in finding affordable, high-quality childcare and contrast that with the opportunities their grandchildren were afforded. Doesn’t every child deserve that? They think so.
Dick and Barbara look forward to working together as a family in growing the Foundation to serve the most pressing needs in their communities. They know they can’t change the entire world, but they believe they can impact the part that is within their reach.