Hall of Fame
The Starr Women's Hall of Fame recognizes Kansas City women who have made our community a better place to live and preserves the history of their accomplishments. By sharing their stories, the Hall of Fame encourages and inspires women everywhere.
Inaugural Class of 2015
Marjorie Powell Allen*
Marjorie Powell Allen had the heart of a social reformer and the talent for attracting other women to her ideas for making Kansas City better. Her special interest was philanthropic groups that could bring together indigent women with the well-to-do women who could provide opportunities and services.
Allen founded the Women's Foundation, in part to bring other women into the donor fold, and the Women's Employment Network, which aids women in their quest for financial independence. She helped create the Central Exchange network for working women. She was the first woman to chair the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and the University of Kansas City Trustees, and she was voted Philanthropist of the Year by the Greater Kansas City Council on Philanthropy in 1988. She also provided funds for Powell Gardens.
Tireless Public Servant
Kay Barnes believes in thinking creatively and acting assertively, behaviors she has followed faithfully and inspires in others. She was driven to public service from her earliest days as a classroom teacher and later at Cross-Lines Community Outreach. But she knew deep down that she could be more effective in a position where she could transform ideas into action.
From the 1970s through the 1990s, Barnes added to her résumé with advanced degrees, volunteering and civic roles. She was elected the first woman mayor of Kansas City in 1999. 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 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
During her 30 years as director of the Center for Practical Bioethics, Myra J. Christopher has helped change the way communities care for the terminally ill. Striving to make changes in the host of problems encountered by the sick, the shunned or the dying, Christopher won over many groups and allied herself with them – including the National Institutes of Health, the American Bar Association, state medical boards, health care professionals and consumers.
For her efforts, Christopher has been recognized with the UMKC Alumni Achievement Award, Greater Kansas City Council on Philanthropy Nonprofit Professional of the Year, and a Tuskegee Institute award for working to improve end-of-life care for African-Americans. Though she has made way for a successor at the Center for Practical Bioethics, Christopher holds the Kathleen M. Foley Chair in Pain and Palliative Care and maintains an active advocacy schedule.
A Phi Beta Kappa with degrees in elementary education and English, Adele Hall's early aspirations included becoming a teacher. Instead, throughout her life her philanthropy had a broad focus – health, education, the arts, charitable organizations – but with an ongoing passion for the needs of children.
Among her many civic contributions, Hall served as board chair of Children's Mercy and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and served on the board of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Pembroke Hill School, Salvation Army, Starlight Theatre and American Red Cross. 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 in 1990 was the first woman to be named Kansas Citian of the Year. She received the UMKC Chancellor's Medal in 1987 in recognition of her commitment and dedication to the university.
Shirley Bush Helzberg
The Ultimate Volunteer
Shirley Bush Helzberg's generous spirit and compassion have made her a good neighbor to all of Kansas City. Helzberg is a tireless friend of the arts, devoting time and funds to organizations such as Starlight Theatre, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, the Kansas City Ballet and the Kansas City Symphony. She currently chairs the board of trustees of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. In 2013, UMKC and its Conservatory of Music and Dance conferred the doctor of musical arts honoris causa on Helzberg for her many contributions to music.
In 2000, Helzberg turned her attention to revitalizing the Crossroads Arts District. She has renovated several historic structures in the area, including the Webster School and Vitagraph buildings. In 2011, the nearby Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and its breathtaking Helzberg Hall opened their doors to worldwide acclaim.
Dorothy H. Johnson*
Activist and Educator
Dorothy H. Johnson was widely known as a civil rights activist, bridge builder and educator. Throughout her life, she was either writing about, serving or teaching about those on the fringe of society. Johnson earned a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1937, and her reporting at the Kansas City Call newspaper brought minority news to light. After earning a master's in social work, she accepted university-level positions teaching and researching social work and medicine. She was director of Jackson County's Office of Health and Welfare; public relations expert for the Urban League; director of the community mental health program for Model Cities; and research associate for the Greater Kansas City Mental Health Foundation.
Many regional groups recognized Johnson, including the NAACP, Central Exchange, the Local Investment Commission (LINC) and UMKC, where a residence hall was named for her and her husband, Herman.
Martha Jane Phillips Starr*
Social Reformer and Philanthropist
Martha Jane Phillips Starr was a legendary activist and philanthropist who blazed a trail for family issues, women's studies and women's rights. She was a catalyst for change and was on the leading edge of many social issues.
Starr's concern for families – and some of the strains they lived with – took her into areas that were controversial at the time and politely ignored, including birth control, divorce, unwanted pregnancy and family economics. She endowed a research professorship in human reproduction – the first of its kind in the country – and began a pilot project on marriage enrichment, which developed into UMKC's Family Studies Center. She also started the UMKC Women's Council and the Graduate Assistance Fund. Starr's projects led into one another, following her deep interests in women, marriage, children and education.