Keith Koenig received the Horatio Alger Award.

Prominent Warrington alumnus recognized with prestigious Horatio Alger Award

CITY Furniture Co-Founder and Chairman Keith Koenig was a recipient of the 2023 Horatio Alger Award, earning a spot in the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc.

For 76 years, the award has been given annually to esteemed individuals who have succeeded despite facing adversities and have remained committed to education and charitable efforts in their communities. Koenig (BSBA ’73, MBA ’75) becomes the fourth University of Florida alumnus to receive the award, joining John Dasburg (MBA ‘70), Jim Pugh, Tommy Shannon (BSBA ‘66) and Herbert Wertheim.

“I am pleased to become a member of the Horatio Alger Association and to join a community of likeminded leaders,” Koenig said. “Despite the challenges I’ve faced, I have always recognized the importance of community involvement and service to others. I can’t think of a more worthy cause than supporting young people who wish to pursue higher education, and I look forward to meeting this year’s scholars who are just beginning their journeys.”

In search of a quieter lifestyle, the hardworking Koenig family moved down to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in 1961. Money was tight in the household, and Koenig helped by washing cars and windows in the neighborhood, eventually becoming a busboy in nearby restaurants. In 1971, Koenig’s late brother, Kevin, opened a small waterbed store in Ft. Lauderdale and named it Waterbed City. While running the store the summer of 1972, he got his first taste of entrepreneurship and was hooked. The brothers soon became business partners and grew Waterbed City into a local landmark in the 1970s and 1980s.

After many successful years, the demand for waterbeds declined and sales plummeted. The Koenig brothers saw this problem as an opportunity to reinvent the business. They converted their then 14-store chain to CITY Furniture, adjusting their product line, suppliers, store format and advertising and retrained their entire team. Sales rebounded. In 2003, CITY Furniture launched a partnership with Ashley Furniture and the company has since grown to become one of Florida’s largest private companies, employing more than 3,000 associates across the state.

The company has its own manufacturing facility in Mississippi and recently opened a new warehouse-showroom in Tampa, which is projected to bring 500 jobs to the area. Amidst his professional success, Koenig faced significant personal tragedy when he lost his first wife Doreen in 2015 to breast cancer. The couple had been married for 37 years. He also lost his brother and business partner, Kevin, who died at age 54 in 2001.

“Like all Horatio Alger Members, Mr. Koenig’s life has been about turning challenges into opportunities,” said Terrence J. Giroux, executive director, Horatio Alger Association. “Despite facing professional setbacks and personal adversity, he remained focused on achieving his goals. We are honored to welcome Mr. Koenig into our distinguished Association.”

Koenig is a generous supporter of the University of Florida. He is part of the Warrington College of Business Advisory Council, as well as being a Life Member of the UF Alumni Association and a past chair of the UF Foundation Board. He also served on the Presidential Search Committee that recruited former UF President Kent Fuchs. He has also been prominently recognized for his contributions and successes, including received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the UF MBA Outstanding Alumnus Award, the Furniture Retailer of the Year Award and was made a Knight of St. Gregory by Pope John Paul II.

He also provides support to regional organizations including the Museum of Discovery and Science, Habitat For Humanity, Camillus House, Holy Cross Hospital, Nova Southeastern University, Boys and Girls Club, St. Gregory Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Miami, among others. Twenty-seven years ago, he founded an annual golf and fishing tournament that was later named in memory of his late brother, Kevin.

Through CITY Furniture, Mr. Koenig also donates furniture to shelters and organizations in need, including Alonzo Mourning’s Overtown Youth Center. Committed to higher education, Mr. Koenig is a member and past chair of the University of Florida Foundation and a member of the Board of Governors at the Nova Southeastern University Alan B. Levan Broward Center of Innovation.

Since 1984, the Association has awarded annual need-based scholarships to high school students who have displayed dedication to pursuing higher education despite significant obstacles throughout their lives. The Association also aims to educate young people about the endless opportunities available by the free-enterprise system through commitment, honesty and diligence. The scholarships are made possible through the Association thanks to the generosity of its members, who will have collectively provided than $245 million to 35,000 students by 2023.

Koenig and the Member Class of 2023 will be formally inducted into the Association during the Horatio Alger Award Induction Ceremonies in Washington, D.C. from March 30 through April 1, 2023. The three-day event is an annual ceremony to honor both the achievements of Members and National Scholars, who will have multiple opportunities to meet, interact and exchange stories of perseverance.