Starlight Theatre and all of Kansas City lost a valued friend and selfless supporter with the passing of Jack Steadman on July 5. While most widely recognized locally for his leadership of the Kansas City Chiefs and Hunt Midwest Enterprises, Jack also made a huge impact on Starlight Theatre for the entirety of the 43 years he served on our Board of Directors.
In May 2011, Jack was honored with Starlight’s first and only Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was presented at Starlight’s 25th Anniversary Benefit Gala, and the following message was shared that evening:
When one looks at the 16-acre Starlight Theatre complex today, with its gleaming new buildings, state-of-the-art stage and expansive education and community outreach programs, it’s hard to imagine this stately facility teetered on the brink of bankruptcy 30 years ago.
It wasn’t as if Jack Steadman didn’t already have more than enough on this plate when he assumed the role of President of the Starlight Board of Directors in 1983. At that time, he was President of the Kansas City Chiefs Football Club, Co-developer of Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun, and a top executive at Hunt Midwest Enterprises, Inc. Nevertheless, he seized the challenge of saving Kansas City’s historic outdoor theatre from further decline and possible demolition.
Jack, along with Board colleague Anita Gorman and Starlight General Manager Bob Rohlf, initiated the theatre’s first-ever capital improvement campaign to beautify the facility, including new lights, seats, landscaping and refurbished restrooms. Under his direction, in 1984 Starlight returned to the role of producer and began a steady climb back to solvency.
Fast forward 15 years, and Jack and Anita again teamed to lead a capital campaign that would result in the 2000 opening of the grand Jeannette and Jerome Cohen Community Stage that we all enjoy today.
Jack Steadman truly was Starlight’s biggest advocate for 43 years. He continued his service to the Starlight Board and remained a Starlight season ticket holder until the very end.
On your next visit to Starlight, we hope you will take a moment to visit the Steadman Family Fountain. Backed by a landscaped terrace, the fountain has welcomed guests at Starlight’s west entrance since 1997. It was dedicated in honor of the Steadman family’s longtime support of our theatre.
In closing, we like to say it wouldn’t be summer without Starlight. And, now we add…Starlight won’t be the same without Jack Steadman.