Pan-Mass Challenge Founder Billy Star will deliver Salem State College School of Graduate Studies commencement address


Pan-Mass Challenge Founder Billy Star will deliver Salem State College School of Graduate Studies commencement address 

Needham, Mass. – Founder and executive director of the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), Billy Starr, will present the commencement address at the School of Graduate Studies at Salem State College and receive an honorary degree. During the ceremony, which will be held at 4 p.m. on May 15 in Salem, Mass., Starr will encourage the graduate students to stay committed to their passion even through the challenges.

Starr has built a unique organization that performs at a level of proficiency rarely found in either the corporate or nonprofit worlds. In 2013, the PMC raised and contributed $39 million to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, representing more than 50 percent of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue and 100 percent of every rider-raised dollar. The PMC is Dana-Farber’s single largest contributor. Since its 1980 inception, the PMC has raised and contributed $414 million to Dana-Farber.

In 1993, the Jimmy Fund honored Starr and the PMC at Fenway Park by awarding him the Tom & Jean Yawkey Memorial Award for outstanding service. In 1997, the bridge connecting the Jimmy Fund Clinic to the new Smith Research Labs and Dana-Farber was named the Pan-MassChallenge Bridge to Progress. In 1998, Starr was the speaker at Babson College’s graduate commencement and received an honorary degree for “entrepreneurial vision and leadership.” In 2004, Dana-Farber awarded Starr the Sidney Farber Medical Research Award, a very prestigious honor given to those who have made an exceptional contribution to reduce the burden of cancer on society. In October 2006, the National Lung Cancer Alliance presented Starr with its Lifetime Achievement Award. The Friends of Dana-Farber honored Starr in 2010 for his more than 30 years of support and service to the Institute. 

The PMC infrastructure consists of eight full-time and four part-time employees; a 10-person volunteer coordinating staff; a 14-person Board of Trustees; 5,800 cyclists; 3,300 volunteers; 46 communities; 200 companies, which donate more than $4 million worth of merchandise and services; and more than 240,000 individuals who sponsor PMC cyclists.

Starr consults on event programming around the globe. He’s worked with Pelotonia to benefit the James Cancer Center in Columbus, OH; the Dolphin Cycling Challenge for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami, FL; Pedal the Cause for the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis, Mo.; the Ride to Conquer Cancer for Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto; Cure on Wheels for the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla.; the Aspen Ride for the Cure for the Susan Komen Group in Aspen, Colo.; and with a future fundraiser in Tuscany, Italy.

Before starting the PMC, he was a reporter for newspapers in Massachusetts and Colorado, worked in public relations, and was the squash coach at Babson College. He received his BA from the University of Denver in 1973, a Master’s in Education from Northeastern University in 1978, an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Babson College in 1998, and an honorary degree from Bay Path College in 2008. An avid cyclist, skier, and racquet player, Starr has ridden in, and fundraised for, his own event for each of its 34 years. Starr lives with his wife, Meredith, and daughters, Hannah and Sophia, in Wellesley, Mass.

About the PMC:

The Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) is an annual bike-a-thon that today raises more money for charity than any other single athletic fundraising event in the world. The PMC was founded in 1980 by Billy Starr, who remains the event’s executive director, an annual cyclist, and a fundraiser. The PMC has since raised $414 million for adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) through the Jimmy Fund. In 2013, the PMC gave a record gift of $39 million.  The PMC pioneered the $2.5 billion athletic fundraising industry and is today a model of fundraising efficiency. The event donates 100 percent of every rider-raised dollar directly to the cause. In 2013, the PMC generated more than 50 percent of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue and was Dana-Farber’s single largest contributor. More than 230,000 individual contributions were made to last year’s event. In 2014, PMC cyclists will ride with the goal of raising $40 million for DFCI.

Jackie Herskovitz