Campus & Community

Bob Koo: Life is a Work in Progress

The Palm Beach State College community lost a dear friend last week. With both heavy hearts and heartfelt memories, we offer these words in remembrance.   

As a young child, Robert “Bob” Koo wanted to pay it forward. His years at a New York City Chinatown parochial school inspired him to educate others to the value and practice of giving. Through Bob’s direction, the school generated grant funding and established a community soup kitchen, serving 20,000 individuals in need. That was just the beginning.

Throughout his life, Bob continued to serve in countless ways. The Foundation for Palm Beach State College was blessed to have him join its board of directors in 2020. Bob brought warmth, commitment and joy to the board, excited for the prospects, projects and potential philanthropic gifts that have elevated the Foundation, College and programs that benefit our students today and tomorrow.

In 2022, the Koo Family Art Collaborative Mentorship was launched at PBSC’s Palm Beach Gardens campus in cooperation with Bob’s longtime friend, artist Helen Salzberg, contributor to the art gallery that bears her name. Through generous support, PBSC students receive a stipend and direct mentorship while developing new works of art and studying with a professional artist. Although the first year of the mentorship is concluding soon, the second selection of a visiting artist and PBSC art students is coming, keeping Bob’s vision for the program and arts at Palm Beach State as vibrant as he was.

With a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute, Bob established the Koo Consulting Group in 1982, specializing in art related philanthropy. Creating metaphorical headaches for art collectors, Bob always referred to himself as the aspirin that enlightened Picasso owners to the advantage of using art for charitable giving and increasing the financial value of their art through philanthropy.

Over the years, Bob’s expertise has been of great benefit to prospective donors, community partners and, most recently, the Foundation for Palm Beach State, proving that a picture can be worth more than 1000 words. In fact, Bob helped many collectors and nonprofit organizations to view art as an asset and even philanthropic capital that can enhance one’s legacy.

And Bob’s legacy? His is one that exists in the hopes of our young people, future leaders, artists and dreamers who believe, achieve and touch the lives of those around them, just as Bob did. In that way, their success is his success though he would never claim such an accolade. Humble and genuine, Bob was always “for you” with whatever direction your passion chose to drive you.

Bob and Shirley Koo have called Palm Beach County home for the past fifteen years, both dedicated to making the world a better place, starting with their own community. And Bob did so simply by doing what he knew best with conviction and a core principle by which he lived: “Life is a work in progress,” inspiring him to adapt to circumstances, embrace opportunities and move beyond setbacks. In our own way, we can embrace Bob’s words with what he showed us in person and told us in every note he wrote: share 2 change lives.  

“Education is very important to us,” Bob told us just a few months ago. “Shirley, my wife, was a math teacher in the Bronx for 34 years, and I have witnessed the value of education throughout my life and career.” With his love for art and education and with a philosophy based on sharing, Bob redirected his efforts to use art and tangible personal property as a way to increase charitable giving. “I call it alternative asset philanthropy,” he would say, eager to tell you more in his unmistakably gentle yet enthusiastic voice. “Not only does the recipient of the gift benefit, but so does the one who gives.”

For us, Bob was the one who gave, truly a gift from which we have all benefited, always and still paying it forward.

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On behalf of President Ava L. Parker, J.D., Vice President & CEO of the Foundation for PBSC David Rutherford, and the entire College, heartfelt condolences are with Bob’s wife Shirley, son Grant, daughter-in-law Shawn, granddaughter Sophia and siblings Joyce, George and William.

A memorial service for Bob Koo is being held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, August 12, at Gardens Presbyterian Church in Palm Beach Gardens. All are welcome to attend or view the service via livestream:

Aug. 12 memorial service.

In lieu of flowers, kindly make a contribution in Bob’s honor here. Gifts benefit the Koo Family Art Collaborative Mentorship at Palm Beach State College.

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One comment on “Bob Koo: Life is a Work in Progress”

  1. So sorry to hear of Bob’s passing. Prayers for Shirley and family. They were always kind and welcoming when my husband and I provided music for their church services for several summers. Special folks.

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