‘To Shape Their Dreams’

New hall of fame celebrates female role models

Women in Kansas City have a new resource to draw on for inspiration to leadership – and one of the world’s best-known young women came to town to promote the value of such resources.

The resource is the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame, launched with great fanfare at a gala luncheon on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The young woman celebrating its creation was Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation and the featured speaker at the event.

The new Hall will recognize women from the Metropolitan Kansas City area and preserve the legacy of their accomplishments. In her remarks, Clinton described how members of her generation – and future generations – will benefit from that preservation.

“It’s very hard to imagine what you can’t see. That’s why it is crucial that institutions like this exist,” Clinton said to a crowd of more than 1,100 in the UMKC Swinney Recreation Center. “This will help UMKC students, and other young people, to see what is possible; to shape their dreams and fire their imaginations.”

The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame has been launched online at www.umkc.edu/starrhalloffame. Full details on nominee eligibility, the nomination process and a nomination form for the Hall are all available at the site.

Clinton paid tribute to her own mother – former First Lady, U.S. Senator and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton – as well as to her mother-in-law and her grandmother. “I am not short on powerful female role models,” she said, but recognized that many other young women lack such advantages.

The theme of unequal opportunity is one she returned to several times in her remarks, declaring at one point that “intelligence is equally distributed, but opportunity is not.”

“As my mother has observed, equal rights for women and girls remains the unfinished business of the 21st century,” Clinton said. While some talk of “glass ceilings” in the workplace – unofficial barriers that prevent women from rising to positions of higher authority – Clinton said there are too many such ceilings in place in too many situations around the world.

“We will only complete this business if we are all equally committed and we highlight the role models we are already blessed to have,” she said.  Later, during a question-and-answer session with former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes, Clinton added “it is important for young women to support each other, and for parents and teachers to support young women.”

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.

“Martha Jane’s tireless efforts continue to impact and uplift Kansas City women to this day. Her story – and the stories of so many other diverse, outstanding local women – must be preserved to share with future generations. The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame will not just preserve these stories, but encourage and inspire future generations of Kansas City women,” Laurie Roberts, Starr Women’s Hall of Fame planning committee co-chair, said.

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.

Curt Crespino, another planning committee co-chair, opened the day’s program by recognizing Mary Kay McPhee, chair of the education committee, for her efforts and support of the new Hall.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James, and Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, also took the stage at the event to offer their congratulations and appreciation for the Hall. Clinton was introduced by Katie Hall, a junior at Pembroke Hill School and granddaughter of longtime civic leaders Don Hall and the late Adele Hall. Katie Hall also spoke of the high value of role models, especially ones who can provide a more positive example than many who enjoy media fame.

“Our responsibility is to not only sustain the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame, but to live our lives in such a way as to be worthy of induction,” she said.

There are 24 civic organizations from across the Kansas City metro that advocate on behalf of women and family issues that are uniting 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; 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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