Starlight fountain with water flowing

Announcing the 2024 Star Award Honorees

A man with gray hair wearing a tuxedo and a woman with brown hair wearing a formal dress post for the camera.

Each fall at the Annual Gala, Starlight presents the Star Award to an individual or couple with exceptional support of Starlight and its mission, civic leadership, and a commitment to bettering the Kansas City community. This year, we proudly announce our 2024 Star Award Honorees: Don and Jean Wagner. 

Don and Jean embody the essence of community leadership and philanthropy, their commitment serving as a beacon of inspiration for us all. With the theme of this year’s Annual Gala being “Breaking Ground,” we find it fitting to celebrate the Wagners, who have consistently broken ground in their endeavors to uplift and transform our beloved city. 

Don’s illustrious career as a private equity investor and former CEO of CST Industries Inc. has been marked by notable achievements. However, it’s his unwavering dedication to civic leadership that truly sets him apart. Don is the former chairman of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kansas City and Friends of the Kansas City Zoo.  

Additionally, he has served on numerous boards, including the National Association of Basketball Coaches Foundation, the University of Kansas Medical Center Advancement Board, and as a Trustee of UMKC. In 2022, Don stepped down from the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, having been the longest-serving board member. Throughout the years, Don has demonstrated a profound commitment to enhancing the fabric of our community. 

Summers for many Kansas City children in the 1950’s involved a trip to Swope Park. For Jean and her siblings, there were day trips to the zoo with their mom and evenings at Starlight with their grandparents. Their father was the President of the Friends of the Zoo, and their grandfather was a founding member of Starlight Theatre.  

The leadership roles held by their parents and grandparents helped shape Jean’s community activism as an adult. In addition to serving on Starlight’s Board of Directors and Philanthropy Committee, Jean has served on the Board of Directors for Bishop Spencer Place, and currently serves as a Trustee for The Nature Conservancy – Missouri.  

Her experience serving in leadership roles of fundraising events throughout the city is vast, including Chair of the Furball supporting Wayside Waifs, Wild About Harry for the Truman Library, Kid’s Night Out for the Boys and Girls Club, Genevieve Byrne Speaker Series for the American Red Cross, and both Chair and Honorary Chair of Jazzoo supporting the Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium. Her passion, generosity, and service extend beyond this list, impacting nonprofit organizations and the communities they serve throughout Kansas City.   

Regarded as leaders in Kansas City’s philanthropy community, Don and Jean have a history of generously supporting several nonprofits, including Starlight, the Plaza Academy, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater KC, Kansas City Community Gardens, Great Plains SPCA, American Cancer Society, UMKC, MOCSA, Rose Brooks, Children’s Therapeutic Learning Center, the Junior League of KC, and many others. In 2016, the Association of Fundraising Professionals honored Don and Jean with the “Spirit of Philanthropy” award, a testament to their transformative impact.  

Their leadership as co-chairs of Starlight’s 2018 Annual Gala, which raised more than $625,000, further exemplifies their dedication to Starlight’s mission. Currently serving as Honorary Chairs of Starlight’s Uniquely KC Capital Campaign, Don and Jean continue to pave the way for innovation and progress.  

Their unwavering support of Starlight’s programs and initiatives, coupled with their steadfast commitment to the arts as loyal Broadway season subscribers, embodies the spirit of Starlight and the Star Award. 

As we prepare to honor Don and Jean at this year’s Annual Benefit Gala, we invite you to join us in celebrating their remarkable contributions. With every step, they have indeed broken ground, leaving a legacy that will continue to inspire generations to come. Together, let us champion their vision and embrace the journey of transformation and growth. 

Join us in celebrating Don and Jean Wagner at Starlight’s 37th Annual Gala on Saturday, October 5, 2024! 

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