2023 Distinguished Alumni
John Starr grew up on a small farm in Allegheny Township and is a 1986 Graduate of Kiski Area HS. At Kiski, he was a member of the Cavalier Wrestling Team and the track team. He was also the Captain of the Kiski Area Math Team. John may have been Kiski’s first dual-enrolled student with Penn State, taking his first college course between 9th and 10th grade in 1983 and completing 23 credits by HS graduation.
After Kiski John continued at Penn State University, where he earned a BS in Engineering Science and Mechanics, Penn State’s Honors Program for Engineering. While at PSU, he was a member of the Penn State Varsity Wrestling Team, Airforce ROTC, and Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity.
Starr began his career at Westinghouse as a mechanical engineer where he helped build Trident submarine missile launch systems and design Seawolf submarine secondary propulsion systems.
After Westinghouse, John worked for Respironics, a medical devices manufacturer, where he led new business development and new product development groups that were responsible for launching new products; John earned seven U.S. patents for respiratory devices while at Respironics.
While at Respironics, John attended Carnegie Mellon University, where he earned his MBA focusing on Operations, Finance, and Entrepreneurship and was honored as Entrepreneur of the Year for 1996.
Following Respironics Starr held leadership positions at FreeMarkets, a dot-com company that invented global reverse online auctions. In his role, John traveled the globe building teams to help customers access the FreeMarkets Global marketplace. Through a series of acquisitions, John held expanded leadership roles at Ariba and, ultimately, SAP, where he became a Sr Vice President leading a global consulting organization of 4500 IT professionals spread across 14 countries on six continents. He was known in his industry for industrializing services to improve cost and quality for customers. John retired from his executive role at SAP in 2022 to spend more time with his family and entrepreneurial ventures.
John has always been passionate about entrepreneurship, starting his first business a year after college. Since then, he has been a founder or founding partner in numerous businesses, including Starr Valley Farm (Organic Grass Fed Cattle), Row House Cinema, Bierport (Craft beverages), and Fulton Commons (co-op kitchen / co-working space).
John serves on the board of directors for Busy Beaver Building Centers, a Pittsburgh-based retailer with 25 stores in the tri-state area. He is also a board member for Ellipsis Corp, an Indianapolis-based computer science curriculum content provider and teaching support serving K-12 school districts nationally.
In support of his community, John has served numerous non-profit organizations, including the current board of director roles with Westmoreland County Conservation District and Wrestlers in Business Network. He is also the most recent chairman of an industry council for the Penn State University College of Engineering and a regular volunteer and mentor for CMU Tepper School of Business and the McGinnis Entrepreneurship Competition. He is a lifelong member of Vandergrift Presbyterian Church.
In 2017 John was named an Outstanding Engineering Alumnus for the Pennsylvania State University, a distinction given to 12 alumni per year among more than 100,000 living engineering alums.
In 2021, Westmoreland County recognized Starr Valley Farm as Farm of the Year.
In 2022 John had the honor of coaching the Penn State Club Wrestling Team in the National Collegiate Wrestling Association National Championship, where the team came home as national champs.
John and his wife Margi have five children who all attended Kiski Area:
Tom (’17) is in medical school at Thomas Jefferson University.
Danny (’18) is a graduate of Penn State and works as a Mechanical Engineer.
Jean (’19) is a Penn State graduate and a Mechanical Engineer.
Sammy (’21) is at the US Naval Academy, where he studies Data Science.
Jessie (’23) will attend Penn State in the fall to study Engineering.