Robin Roberts Speaks at Starr Women’s Hall of Fame Inaugural Induction
It was a joyous occasion, a celebration of people who do a lot for us — educators and entrepreneurs, scientists and social workers, all of whom happen to be women.
A sold-out crowd of 1,100 gathered at a luncheon to honor the inaugural class of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Starr Women’s Hall of Fame. Dedicated in honor of Martha Jane Phillips Starr, it recognized seven leading local women whose contributions have made a lasting impression on Kansas City and beyond.
Inspired by a call to action — inductees and featured speaker Robin Roberts alike — we are all here to help each other.
“The sirens sound the same no matter where you are,” said Tara Johnson, daughter of Dorothy H. Johnson, one of the inductees.
Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America and a breast cancer survivor, credits much of her success to her mother, who delayed her own career while she raised children. And Roberts praised former ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer.
“She said there’s plenty of room at the table for other women,” Roberts said. “And that’s what women should be doing: helping women in good times and bad.”
Roberts said the secret of her success was “dreaming big” about becoming a sports journalist by “focusing small,” taking the practical steps to make it happen even if it’s venturing outside of your comfort zone. For her, that meant deejaying country music on the radio on the weekends. And it means recognizing opportunities.
“I am a proud product of Title IX,” said Roberts, who graduated cum laude from Southeastern Louisiana University. She was a standout performer on the women’s basketball team, ending her career as the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Roberts used her background in athletics to take on breast cancer in 2007 and bone marrow disease in 2012. “Focus on the fight and not the fright,” she said. She remembered the wisdom of her late mother who would say “If we all threw our problems in the middle, we would probably want to take ours back.”
Roberts’ mother also inspired her memoir “Everybody’s Got Something,” about battling against illness and her return to the “Good Morning America” anchor desk. “Make your mess your message,” Roberts said her mother would say.
A chapter in her book is called “I’m freaking blessed.”
“Dreams might not look like what you thought they would,” Roberts said. “God’s delays are not his denials. There are three answers to prayers: yes, not yet and I have something even better in mind.”
Roberts recently launched her own production company. “I’m a storyteller,” she said. “I love to tell the stories of others.”
And then the stories of the seven inductees were told on video. The inductees were:
Marjorie Powell Allen
Marjorie Powell Allen, the first woman to chair the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and the University of Kansas City Trustees. She donated the land to create Powell Gardens; founded the Women’s Foundation and the Women’s Employment Network; initiated the process that led to creation of the Central Exchange; and was voted Philanthropist of the Year by the Greater Kansas City Council on Philanthropy in 1988.
Kay Barnes, the first woman mayor of Kansas City. She led the effort to revitalize downtown with the construction of the Sprint Center, the Power and Light District and the new H&R Block headquarters. She also served terms on the City Council and the Jackson County Legislature, and is the Founding Director of the Center for Leadership at Park University.
Myra J. Christopher
Myra J. Christopher, founding director of the Center for Practical Bioethics, originally called the Midwest Bioethics Center. Her vision and tireless efforts have improved health care for the most vulnerable. She is a founder and board member of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care and a member of the National Institutes of Health Interagency Pain Research Coordinating committee.
Adele Hall, civic leader committed to helping children and families. She served as board chair of both Children’s Mercy Hospital and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation; served on the board of the Nelson-Atkins Museum and, on the national level, held leadership positions with the boards of the United Negro College Fund and the Points of Light Foundation. She was a co-founder of the Central Exchange, and was named Kansas Citian of the Year in 1990.
Shirley Bush Helzberg
Shirley Bush Helzberg, civic leader, educator and businesswoman. She is noted for her long-term support and advocacy for the Kansas City Symphony, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival; redevelopment of the Crossroads district; and co-founder of University Academy Charter School. She was presented the Citation Award by the National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1995.
Dorothy H. Johnson
Dorothy H. Johnson, journalist, researcher and social scientist. She served as director of the Community Mental Health Model Cities Program and the Jackson County Department of Health and Welfare, and as executive director of the Geriatric Resources Corp. She was a reporter and editor for the Kansas City Call, a co-founder of the Central Exchange and their 1990 Woman of the Year, and received the 1993 Distinguished Service Citation from the NAACP Freedom Fund Committee.
Martha Jane Phillips Starr
Martha Jane Phillips Starr, philanthropist and community activist. She established the Chair for Reproductive Studies at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, the first of its kind in the U.S. She served as president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Kansas City, founded the Women’s Council at UMKC and was the first woman recipient of the UMKC Chancellor’s Medal.
The next class of women will be inducted in 2017 in the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame. Chelsea Clinton was the speaker at the launch event in 2014.
There are 25 civic organizations from across the Kansas City metro that advocate on behalf of women and family issues that have united to form the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame: American Association of University Women; American Business Women’s Association; Central Exchange; Greater Kansas City Chamber’s Executive Women’s Leadership Council; Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri; Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus; Jackson County Missouri Chapter of the Links, Inc.; Junior League of Kansas City, Mo.; Kansas City Athenaeum; Kansas City Young Matrons; Mana de Kansas City; National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators; OneKC for Women; Soroptimist International of Kansas City; Soroptimist Kansas City Foundation; UMKC Women’s Center; UMKC Women’s Council; UMKC Women of Color Leadership Conference; WIN for KC; win│win; Women’s Employment Network; The Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City; Women’s Public Service Network; Zonta International District 7 and Zonta Club of KC II.