IN HER WORDS: Marian Starbuck

photo of child holding blocks that spell learnMarian Starbuck has been giving to the Community Foundation’s Spirit of Community Fund since 2001. In 2010 she created the Starbuck Endowment Fund, an Unrestricted Fund we can use to address the community’s needs. Recently, Marian shared with us about her life and philanthropy.

I’m a South Bend native with roots in Kalamazoo. I came to Kalamazoo College in the fall of 1941. Pearl Harbor happened three months later, and it completely changed college life for all of us. With the men at war, by the time I was a junior we were almost an all-female college. I graduated in 1945 with a degree in social work.

After the war I got married, and we came back here for Bud, my husband, to finish his bachelor’s degree on the GI Bill at Kalamazoo College. Then we moved to Ann Arbor for him to get a law degree at the University of Michigan. I worked in social work while Bud was in school and then stopped working when he finished and became a full-time mother to our two sons.

Fortunately, I had a mother who knew life could be better for women than what she had growing up. She had gone to business school and worked as a secretary, so she understood the value of education. She was determined that I would go to college.

Education has been a thread in my life. As a social worker, I saw what happens to children when they don’t have the right opportunities for education and growth. It was heartbreaking to see these little kids, and you just knew nothing good was going to happen for them. We did a lot to feed and house them and work with the parents, but without education that wasn’t going to be enough to give them a chance in life. Like my mother, I believe in the value of a good education.

I think giving to others originally came from my childhood. My mom and dad were very active in South Bend, where they belonged to a lot of philanthropic organizations. I grew up knowing that volunteering and donating were just something you do, a way of life.

I don’t remember precisely when or why my husband and I began making donations. I know we always felt like we were so blessed with good fortune that we wanted to help others. Bud was committed to contributing while he was alive, and I just carried it on after he was gone. I knew that’s what he would have wanted, and it’s also what I want to do.

Most of us have so much more than we need. In a way, it’s a bit selfish I suppose. But it feels so good to help somebody else who hasn’t had the same advantages. And I’ve been so lucky my whole life — good health, a good husband, good parents and great experiences — I feel so blessed that I just want to help other people have a chance for those same opportunities.

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