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Chris Koch, CEO of New Era Cap, to receive Canisius College Distinguished Citizen Award

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Wed, Apr 19th 2017 09:20 am
Christopher H. Koch
Christopher H. Koch

The Canisius College Board of Regents will confer its Distinguished Citizen Award upon Christopher H. Koch, the CEO of New Era Cap, during its 51st annual Regents Scholarship Ball on Saturday, May 6, at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo.

Cocktails begin at 6 p.m. The awards presentation begins at 7:30 p.m. Dinner will immediately follow.

The Board of Regents confers the Distinguished Citizen Award, annually, to recognize an individual for his/her contributions to the economic, civic and/or cultural well-being of Western New York.

Koch is the fourth-generation CEO of the family-owned company New Era Cap. He has led the business since 1993 and transformed it from a relatively small headwear manufacturing company into a highly sought-after global lifestyle brand.

Early in his career as president, Koch secured a deal with Major League Baseball that made New Era the exclusive supplier of on-field caps for every MLB team. Similar exclusive licensing partnerships with the National Football League and the National Basketball Association followed in 2012 and 2017, respectively.

Having soundly established the New Era name in the sports field, Koch made the strategic decision to introduce the brand to the fashion and lifestyle industries. An unexpected call from filmmaker Spike Lee, requesting a custom-made red New York Yankees cap to wear at the 1996 World Series, helped Koch kick-start his plan. It was that game-changing moment that catapulted New Era onto the pop culture scene.

Soon after, celebrities such as Usher and LL Cool J began to sport New Era caps. Fred Durst, of the band Limp Bizkit, and entertainer Lil' Flip literally sang the praises of New Era caps in their songs. The brand basked in the glow of its newfound appeal and saw production and profits double.

Today, New Era is the No. 1 headwear brand, with 65 million caps sold annually in more than 125 countries, and a portfolio that holds licensing partnerships with more than 500 sports and entertainment properties, including NASCAR and Disney.

Much of that growth continues now in international markets, where Koch is broadening the New Era brand even more with lines of athleisure apparel, accessories and wearable technology.

No matter how far the New Era name travels, however, its roots are firmly planted in Western New York. Koch made certain of that in 2006 when he moved the company's world headquarters to downtown Buffalo, while maintaining U.S. manufacturing operations in Derby. Both decisions proved to be economic wins for the region and the workforce. As did the hometown play that came last fall, when New Era agreed to purchase the naming rights to the Buffalo Bills stadium. Though a natural next step for a company that has a longstanding rapport with the local sports teams, the deal formalized New Era's commitment to the community in which it does business.

Still, it was only the latest in a long line of contributions Koch and the New Era family have made to Western New York.

He and the company he spearheads are mutually committed to improving the health and well-being of Western New York. Koch is a generous benefactor to Roswell Park's new Clinical Sciences Center and the soon-to-be-completed John R. Oishei Children's Hospital. Under his leadership, New Era is a key player in addressing the achievement gap in higher education through its investment in the Jackie Robinson Foundation. In addition to scholarship support, New Era provides mentoring to scholars, along with internships and career placements. The Boys & Girls Club of Buffalo, Cradle Beach, Brian Moorman's PUNT Foundation, the American Cancer Society and the Albright Knox Art Gallery are also beneficiaries of Koch's pledge to help people and communities reach their full potentials.

Tickets for the 51th annual Regents Scholarship Ball are now on sale. Tables of 10 are available at the Magis Level for $5,500, the Ignatian Level for $3,500, and the Griffin Level for $2,500. Young alumni pricing (classes of 2007-16) and individual tickets are also available.

To purchase tickets or learn about sponsorship opportunities, visit www.canisius.edu/RegentsBall or contact Cecelia Gotham, assistant director of stewardship and events, at 716-888-8228 or at [email protected].

Canisius is one of 28 Jesuit universities in the nation.

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