Seven Outstanding Women to be Recognized in New Hall of Fame

Inaugural class of honorees to be celebrated at event featuring Robin Roberts

Seven exceptional women from the Metropolitan Kansas City area make up the inaugural class of honorees to be recognized in the new Starr Women’s Hall of Fame.

These women, renowned in the fields of philanthropy, politics, ethics, education, business and community development, will be celebrated at a luncheon event March 13 in Swinney Recreation Center on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame is a community-based effort to honor outstanding women past and present, from all walks of life, from Greater Kansas City. Women will draw encouragement and inspiration from stories shared by other women.

The first class of inductees includes:

  • 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, 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, 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, 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, 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.

Amy McAnarney, Vice President of External Relations for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts; and Curt Crespino, UMKC Vice Chancellor for University Advancement, are serving as event co-chairs.

“These seven extraordinary women have made a dramatic impact on our community, an impact that will be felt for generations to come,” McAnarney said. “Through this hall of fame, we are shining a light on their contributions so they can continue to serve as role models for generations of women to come.”

Crespino added that UMKC takes great pride in hosting and supporting the hall of fame and its events.

“Considering what Martha Jane Starr has meant to our university and our community, our participation is a given,” Crespino said. “This is what it means to be Kansas City’s university.”

The Starr Education Committee at UMKC is a key supporter of the hall of fame. Committee chair Mary Kay McPhee said the concept is one Martha Jane Starr would have endorsed.

“Martha Jane would be absolutely delighted that we are celebrating the achievements of women in this way,” McPhee said. “Even though she herself was uncomfortable with receiving accolades, she knew it was important to recognize the accomplishments of women in order to inspire and empower others to bring about change.”

The March 13 luncheon event will also feature an inspiring media personality with an uplifting personal story of triumph over adversity: Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America and a cancer survivor. In 2013, Roberts was given the prestigious Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs and a Peabody Award for her public service campaign, which focused on her battle with a rare blood and bone marrow disease. Tickets for the event are available online.

The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame bears the name of the late Martha Jane Phillips Starr, a Kansas City philanthropist and champion of women’s rights. Starr was one of the first women to become a member of the UMKC Board of Trustees. She also helped start the UMKC Women’s Council and their Graduate Assistance Fund, which provides financial assistance to female students. She died in 2011.

The Hall is made possible through the Starr Education Committee at UMKC, Martha Jane Starr’s family and the Starr Field of Interest Fund, which was established upon her death through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The idea for the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame stemmed from Starr Education Committee members.

The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame has been launched online at Full details on nominee eligibility, the nomination process and a nomination form for the Hall are all available at the site. The announcement and celebration of a new class of inductees will be a biennial event. The next class will be announced in late 2016 and the celebration will take place in March 2017.

The civic organizations that advocate on behalf of women and family issues and have signed on in support of the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame include: American Association of University Women; American Business Women’s Association; CBIZ Women’s Advantage; 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.

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