Commitment to Giving Keeps This Resident Going

Commitment to Giving Keeps This Resident Going

May 8, 2018

At 95, David Starr says he doesn’t particularly feel like slowing down. The lifelong philanthropist can’t stop thinking about the things he can still do for his community.

A Glenmeadow resident, David goes into his office generally once a week at The Springfield Republican Co. in Springfield, where he works as president as well as senior editor for Advance Publications, which owns 26 newspapers in America and the Conde Nast magazines around the world. He also meets periodically with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Kevin Kennedy, the city’s chief development officer.

“We do a lot of thinking and planning and talking about how to do things downtown,” says David, whose influence in Western Massachusetts continues to impact everything from local news coverage to economic development. Starr served for 10 years, with downtown business leaders and Congressman Richard Neal, as president of Springfield Central, the downtown development organization.

At the heart of David’s passion for community is supporting area arts organizations with his wife, Peggy. For decades, David has been involved with the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities, the Springfield Business Friends for the Arts, and the National Arts Alliance.

His hard work has not gone unnoticed. Last year, he received a Massachusetts Governor’s Award in the Humanities for his extensive involvement in the Springfield community, which has also included founding the Springfield Business Friends of the Arts, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts.

Credit for receipt of the award, David says, is shared equally by he and Peggy, his wife of 75 years. “Peggy was a major force. It’s not just me,” he says, noting that the two have been significantly involved in fundraising for the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, the Springfield Museums, the public television station WGBY, CityStage, and the Community Music School of Springfield.

“We were a good team together,” David adds, noting that because of poor health, Peggy lives in a care center in Agawam. “She taught me music, art, dance and literature, and I taught her economics, politics, and history. We did a good job of growing together. She did great things for Springfield and for New York City.”

On his frequent visits to see Peggy, David says they still hold hands.

David’s newspaper career began as editor of his high school and college campus newspapers.   As a junior at Queens College in New York, he landed a summer job at the Long Island Daily Press, an Advance Newspapers paper. He worked Friday nights and Saturdays, getting coffee for the editors, washing desks in the newsroom, answering the phone and occasionally writing stories.

When he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics, David became a Long Island Daily Press reporter. After three-years-plus in the U.S. Army, during which his focus was on arresting high-profile Nazis in Austria, David returned to his newspaper. He moved up the ranks and was named senior editor of all the conglomerate’s 26 newspapers in 1966. Peggy worked as a music editor.

Back then, David worked with New York mayors on city development. “Robert Wagner Jr. appointed me a member of the blue ribbon Committee to study the impact of open enrollment at city colleges, for example. I also worked with John Lindsay on a number of important issues, including changing the zoning requirements for new buildings in New York City.”

When the Long Island Daily Press folded in 1977, David and Peggy moved to Springfield and got involved in local culture, continuing the community activism they began in New York City here.

In the 1980s, David and Peggy began to give in earnest. They established a $1 million fund with the Community Foundation of Pioneer Valley to support the largest cultural agencies in the city—the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, public TV station WGBY, New England Public Radio,  the Springfield  Museums Association, and CityStage.

David is a celebrity here at Glenmeadow as well. In past years, he has led talks on the history of Springfield, and he sat on a panel we organized a few years ago on the importance of philanthropy. He appreciates that there are other residents with cultural and philanthropic interests.

“Glenmeadow is a very welcoming place,” he says.  “It is such a pleasure to live with interesting. and intelligent people.”

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