More than 800 guests attended The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame’s first Induction Ceremony last Friday at Swinney Recreation Center. The ceremony featured Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts as a speaker.
The first seven women inducted into the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame were Shirley Bush Helzberg, Martha James Phillips Starr, Dorothy H. Johnson, Adele Hall, former Kansas city Mayor Kay Barnes and Marjorie Powell Allen.
Sydney Crimmins, a celebrated UMKC Volleyball player, gave an introductory speech in which she touched upon her and Roberts’ similar backgrounds as female athletes.
“Robin and I have a lot in common,” Crimmins said. “We are both the babies of our family, and refer to home as ‘good ol’ small town.’ It speaks volumes knowing that you don’t have to be from a big city to make it.”
Crimmins also made a surprising announcement.
“I am pleased to announce today that a Graduate Assistance Fund has been established in [Robert’s] honor, in deep appreciation for the inspiring example [Roberts has] and continue to set for today’s young women leaders,” Crimmins said.
This fund was a surprise to Roberts and many other attendees.
“What an honor, to be the inaugural class,” Roberts began, “and I thank you for the example you’re setting for all of us, especially the young women in this community. Your stories are inspiring, and I am in awe of your vast accomplishments.”
Roberts then spoke about one of the most influential women leaders in her own life — her mother.
“From extremely humble beginnings in Akron, Ohio, she became the first in her family to go to college,” Roberts said.
After marrying a Tuskegee Airman and having children, Roberts’ mother worked her way up the professional ladders of the education sector.
“It was so powerful for me to see her reach her goals,” Roberts said. “And also, equally impactful was watching my father being completely supportive. . .I’m very grateful for that example they set for me.”
Roberts recounted dreaming of being a famous tennis player and going to Wimbledon.
“I’ve been this height since eighth grade, so I played basketball,” she said.
Upon realizing that she didn’t have what it took to be a professional athlete, she decided to become a sports journalist. Roberts climbed up the professional ladder, from local sports coverage in Mississippi to Good Morning America, and eventually covering sports at Wimbledon.
The topic then turned to Roberts’ very public battle with breast cancer.
“I approached my illnesses just like an athlete,” Roberts said. “It was the opponent. My doctors were my coaches. We had a game plan: my treatment. And no, being athletic, leading a healthy lifestyle did not prevent me from becoming ill, but it helps you so much.”
Roberts also shared her enthusiasm about UMKC’s embracing of the Be The Match Foundation, an organization which finds matching bone marrow donors for patients with blood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Roberts herself received marrow from her sister, but most people rely on strangers for a match.