Women of Starr Hall of Fame’s First Class

Are all first class

Seven women will be inducted as the inaugural class of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Starr Hall of Fame at a luncheon on March 13. The Starr Hall of Fame, dedicated in honor of Martha Jane Phillips Starr, recognizes the past and celebrates the present of leading local women whose contributions have made a lasting impression on Kansas City and beyond.

What is it about these women that made them stand out? Why were these particular women chosen?

At first blush, they all seem different. They grew up in big cities or small towns, but all are from the Midwest, with that desirable midwestern sensibility, common sense and an attachment to community. They witnessed their parents and other family members – some wealthy, some comfortable, and some struggling – doing kindnesses for others.

Their aims took them in different directions:  but they all had a hand in some of the same local organizations, such as the Central Exchange, the Junior League, arts and healthcare agencies, and UMKC.

They were politicians, homemakers, non-profit leaders, journalists, businesswomen and educators, but they had an important quality in common:  they looked outside themselves to make a difference and find fulfillment. Like Martha Jane Phillips Starr, they wanted to live in a civil society, one that embraced people of all classes, colors and conditions. And for the women fortunate enough to encounter these seven women and their causes, their lives were forever changed.

The luncheon honoring these seven will take place on March 13, 2015, at UMKC’s Swinney Recreation Center. The featured speaker is Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America and a breast cancer survivor. Roberts, an inspiring media personality, will share her uplifting personal story of triumph over adversity.

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.

The event is sold out.

The first class of inductees includes:

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
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
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.



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