Stark family donates $1 million to students’ futures

Looking around the Cornell College campus, a lot has changed since Jon Stark walked the halls of the buildings as a student from 1948-1952.

“I sit here in the Thomas Commons, and I think of our gathering place in my day, the Cole Bin—a quonset hut in a now parking lot behind Armstrong Hall.  So, as far as the changes, they are so dramatic that I find it difficult to think back and compare how times could change this much for me, as well as for the college, in this period.”

Jon and Terry Stark enjoy their time in Thomas Commons.

Jon recently visited campus with his wife, Terry. They reflected on the time their son, Eric Stark ’89, spent at Cornell. He graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in interdisciplinary studies, combining theatre, art, and English. Following graduation he was offered an internship with the Folger Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. in the prop department.

“Cornell’s One Course At A Time prepared him to jump right in and take full advantage of the opportunity the internship afforded,” Jon said. “He returned to the San Francisco Bay area.  He spent the next five years producing sets and props for various theater companies until he returned to graduate school where he received his master’s degree in architecture from Harvard University. Even now, Eric talks of sending his children, ages seven and 10, to Cornell someday.”

Through the years, the couple has supported the liberal arts college. Jon was also a member of the Board of  Trustees from 1989-1997.

Based on Jon’s belief that One Course At A Time instills focus in a student’s learning process that will be invaluable in the student’s future, the Starks have graciously donated $1 million to Cornell College.  Their gift will create the Stark Endowed Fellowship to fund internships and other experiential learning opportunities for students through the Berry Career Institute.

The Berry Career Institute is a one-stop shop for career and professional development activities that provide resources for career exploration, resume and cover letter creation and review, mock interviews, internship and job searches, and graduate school prep.

“I hope that Cornell will do for students what it did for Jon and what it did for our son, Eric,”  Terry said. “In both instances, coming to Cornell was really a life-changing experience. For Jon, coming from his small town, Cornell opened the world to him.”

They hope their gift will encourage others to support the college.

“The small college, I think, is so important in the scheme of things,” Terry said. “Some students are much, much better off in a small college setting. So, I think we should do all we can to support a small college.”

“I couldn’t see anything better that we could do than to make a contribution here,” Jon said.

The Stark family hopes their gift will provide meaningful support for Cornell students as they prepare for careers in their chosen fields.