Who was Oscar Boonshoft? Meet the namesake behind the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery

If you live in Dayton, chances are you’ll recognize the Boonshoft name. It’s on buildings ranging from the museum of discovery to Wright State’s school of medicine.

A native of the Bronx and son of Russian immigrants, Boonshoft was a mechanical engineering graduate of Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. During college he was a lacrosse player.

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Boonshoft worked as a project engineer with the Army Air Corps at Wright Field, which later became the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. At WPAFB he was involved in the development of armaments that entailed design, procurement, flight-testing and the evaluation of installations in bomber aircraft. He was promoted to contracting officer and later transferred to supervisory production engineer before retiring in 1970.

He met his wife, Marjorie, in Dayton, and they had four children, Linda, David, Arthur and Aaron.

Credit: Contributed photo by Peter Wine

Credit: Contributed photo by Peter Wine

Later in life, Boonshoft engaged in active speculative trading of commodity futures contracts. At one time he held seats on three commodity futures exchanges.

When once asked how he was so successful, Boonshoft responded, “I’m right 51 percent of the time.”

Credit: Dayton Daily News

Credit: Dayton Daily News

In a 1999 Dayton Daily News interview, Boonshoft told a reporter that “each commodity is like a 12-dimension chess game. It’s a terrific challenge.”

Boonshoft was one of Dayton’s major philanthropists, donating more than $60 million to the community. His gifts, he once said, “make me poorer in money wealth, but very much richer knowing what I’ve accomplished.”

“Oscar Boonshoft was for many years an anonymous funder who epitomized the donor who wanted no one to know,” said Mark Light, the former president of the Victoria Theatre Association, in 2010. “Oscar tended to fund underdog projects...He had a desire to be a tipping point on a project. He didn’t like to be involved in projects that already had momentum; he liked to create that momentum.”

Among the institutions that bear his name are the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, the Marjorie and Oscar Boonshoft Center for Jewish Culture and Education, the Boonshoft Center for Medical Sciences at Kettering College of Medical Arts and the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University.

He was also on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton, Temple Israel Foundation, Covenant House, Wright State University Foundation, Governing Board of the Wallace-Kettering Neuroscience Institute, Honorary Trustee of the Dayton Opera Association and Dayton Society of Natural History.

Boonshoft died March 22, 2010 at his home in Kettering at the age of 92.

Meredith Moss and Benjamin Kline contributed to this report

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