Alex Dapp // Spring 2015
UMKC invited Ina Garten, Tony Kushner and Robin Roberts to campus to help celebrate the Ideas of March — three great events featuring well known keynote speakers.

“Barefoot Contessa” urges: ‘pick what you love’

Ina Garten, host of the Barefoot Contessa, discussed her self-made brand and entrepreneurial spirit with civic leader Mary Bloch.

In an informal, conversational-style setting, Ina Garten shared her remarkable entrepreneurship story with a large gathering of her fans.

More than 500 people turned out to hear what tips the self-created entrepreneur, “The Barefoot Contessa,” would share with those who wish to follow in her footsteps or just learn a bit more about her.

Mary Bloch, who shares Garten’s penchant for food and wine, interviewed Garten about the “hows and whys” of her venture into the food industry.

Garten has been a columnist for Martha Stewart Living magazine, O, the Oprah magazine and House Beautiful magazine.

‘Love Wins!’

Tony Kusher, playwright, author and screenwriter, visits with Joan Israelite, a highly regarded Kansas City arts and civic leader, during the Pride Scholarship Breakfast.

More than 750 Kansas City and UMKC supporters gathered at the seventh annual Pride Breakfast to raise a record-breaking preliminary amount of $84,223 for LGBTQIA student scholarships. Additional donations continue to pour in.

The keynote speaker, Tony Kushner, contributed in large part to the record-breaking fundraiser. Kushner is an American playwright, author and screenwriter best known for his two-part epic play, “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.”

“His play saved lives,” said Eric Rosen, director of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre and nationally-recognized playwright, during his introduction. “Without Tony’s play, we wouldn’t be here raising money for our students.”

Instead of a lecture, Joan Israelite, a highly regarded Kansas City arts and civic leader and member of the National Council on the Arts, sat with Kushner on stage and asked questions. They talked about his childhood, influences on his work and plans for future productions.

Since 2008, the UMKC Pride Breakfast has raised funds to support students at UMKC and served as a way to show the university’s support of, and commitment to, LGBTQIA students. Kushner generously agree to waive to his appearance fee in support of the university’s Pride Empowerment Fund and its commitment to ensuring that the student experience at UMKC is both safe and supportive.

The LGBTQIA Leadership Scholarship recognizes students who have worked to advance the LGBTQIA community through leadership endeavors while at UMKC. Some students who come out or are “outed” to their families are rejected by their loved ones and faced with a sudden lack of financial support for college. The Pride Empowerment Fund provides critical support to these students by offering grants to help with expenses such as books, food, rent and utilities.

‘Make Your Mess Your Message’

Robin Roberts, co-host of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” served as the keynote speaker for the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame luncheon. During the lunch, Roberts sat down for a Q&A with Patti Phillips, CEO of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators.

It was a joyous occasion, a celebration of people who do a lot for us — educators and entrepreneurs, scientists and social workers, all of whom happen to be women.

A sold-out crowd of 1,100 gathered at a luncheon to honor the inaugural class of the UMKC Starr Women’s Hall of Fame. Dedicated in honor of Martha Jane Phillips Starr, the luncheon recognized seven leading local women whose contributions have made a lasting impression on Kansas City and beyond.

Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America” and a breast cancer survivor, was the keynote speaker for the event.

“There’s plenty of room at the table for other women,” Roberts said. “And that’s what women should be doing: helping women in good times and bad.”

Roberts used her background in athletics to take on breast cancer in 2007 and bone marrow disease in 2012. “Focus on the fight and not the fright,” she said. She remembered the wisdom of her late mother who would say “If we all threw our problems in the middle, we would probably want to take ours back.”

Roberts’ mother also inspired her memoir “Everybody’s Got Something,” about battling against illness and her return to the “Good Morning America” anchor desk. “Make your mess your message,” Roberts said her mother would say.

A chapter in her book is called “I’m freaking blessed.”

“Dreams might not look like what you thought they would,” Roberts said. “God’s delays are not his denials. There are three answers to prayers: yes, not yet and I have something even better in mind.”

Roberts recently launched her own production company.

“I’m a storyteller,” she said. “I love to tell the stories of others.”

And then the stories of the seven inductees were told on video. The inductees were:

  • Marjorie Powell Allen*
  • Kay Barnes
  • Myra J. Christopher
  • Adele Hall*
  • Shirley Bush Helzberg
  • Dorothy H. Johnson*
  • Martha Jane Phillips Starr*

*Posthumous recognition




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