Martha Jane Starr (A&S 1997, Honorary Degree), a long-time UMKC donor and friend, died on Nov. 14. She would have been 105 years old on Nov. 22. Mrs. Starr, who was the first woman elected to serve on UMKC’s Board of Trustees, joined the Board the year the university became part of the UM System in 1963.
While serving as a Trustee and later, she championed the university as a place to research, discuss and solve issues confronting women and their families. The year she joined the Trustees, she established the Family Study Center Endowment, which would later evolve into the endowment that today funds the UMKC Starr Symposium, a campus community forum for women’s and family issues.
“It is difficult to overstate the impact that Mrs. Starr had on our campus and community,” said Curt Crespino, UMKC Vice Chancellor for University Advancement. “Both Martha Jane and her husband, John, were active community leaders all of their lives, and our university and city will be the beneficiaries of their dedicated community activism for many years to come.”
Mrs. Starr founded the UMKC Women’s Council, serving as its president from 1967-68. She was recognized for her contributions in 1968, when she became the first female to receive the Chancellor’s Medal.
In 1971, she pioneered the establishment of the UMKC Graduate Assistance Fund (GAF), recruiting a grassroots donor pool to support one of the country’s oldest philanthropic initiatives by women for women. Today, the GAF has an endowment of more than $1 million and more than 1,500 women have received graduate fellowships from the Women’s Council’s efforts. She also endowed the Martha Jane Starr Missouri Distinguished Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at UMKC.