In many ways, C.V. Starr’s life is a classic American story: a young man from humble origins rises to the pinnacle of American business. But Starr’s experience was different. When he started his business in China in 1919 his model was to create close partnerships with the local population—his earliest bankers were Chinese and he always employed Chinese staff. This was the model for his businesses all over Asia and the rest of the world, long before “globalism” or “multiculturalism” became common terms. Starr was interested in people who worked hard and were good at what they did, whatever their field of endeavor.
Starr’s affinity for Asia remained strong throughout his life, reflected in his businesses and in his philanthropy. From its inception, his private foundation supported cultural and educational exchanges and organizations that enabled Americans to learn about and engage with the people and cultures of Asia. Following Starr’s death in 1968, Starr’s successor, Maurice R. Greenberg, continued to expand the Starr businesses and Starr’s philanthropy in Asia, including a remarkable return to China in 1992. The C. V. Starr East Asian Library exemplifies this commitment to scholarship and a greater understanding of Asia. This fine exhibit conveys not only the scope of his pioneering career, but also his wide range of interests, his commitment to people, wherever they were from, and his enduring internationalism.
We are grateful to Jim Cheng, Director of the C.V. Starr East Asian Library, and Ria Koopmans-de Bruijn, Head of Public Services at the Library, for bringing Starr’s story to the Columbia community and the world beyond.
Florence A Davis, President, The Starr Foundation