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THIS community has undergone a major transformation over the past three decades through a series of initiatives that have been brought about by a unique collaboration of the public and private sectors.
From the Focus 2000 initiatives launched in the administration of then-Mayor Robert Stewart through the Vision 2020 accomplishments achieved under his successor, Fred Armstrong, Columbus has become a city of the future that has retained important roots to its past.
Rare is the initiative that does not bear the stamp of Sherry Stark, announced today as The Republic’s 2013 Woman of the Year. Throughout her career, the multifaceted Lafayette native, who has called Columbus home since 1972, has exercised her own form of leadership in both the public and private sectors.
As director of community development for the city from 1986 to 1996 she was Stewart’s point person in such projects as Streetscape, the Front Door, housing and Self-Sufficiency.
While she demonstrated her own leadership skills, she was far more comfortable in supporting or collaborative roles in which she was less visible but certainly integral to the success of numerous projects.
During the Focus 2000 era, she took on the role of implementer — along with Randy Tucker and Fred Meyer, representatives of the city’s leading employers, Cummins Engine Co. and Arvin Industries — in facilitating numerous community initiatives that came to fruition.
In the Vision 2020 era, she operated from within the private sector — primarily as president of the Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County — in not only realizing the long-held dream of a revitalized downtown but in bringing about a dramatic new approach to education throughout southeastern Indiana.
She was a critical player in the EcO15 (Economic Opportunities through Education by 2015) initiative which, among other things, gave a tremendous shot in the arm to local postsecondary education and opened doors to better job opportunities to thousands of men and women by giving them the means to obtain marketable skills. Her personal efforts were instrumental in the awarding of a $38 million grant by the Lilly Endowment to educational initiatives in this quarter of the state. A portion of that grant — approximately $15 million — was used to develop the Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence at Columbus Municipal Airport.
During her tenure as president of the Heritage Fund, she guided the organization through a repurposing strategy, evolving the organization beyond its important role as a donor organization into an entity that helped develop community agendas for the future.
She was supposed to have retired in 2012 when she stepped down from her position with the Heritage Fund but within a few months had taken on a new assignment in helping to establish the new Centra Foundation, a mission she successfully completed earlier this year.
The scorecard of the successful achievements in which she has been involved is impressive, but she is always the first to point out that most if not all came to be through the collaboration of many others.
In some respects that fact is also a tribute to her because she invariably provided the cohesion that kept those others together.
Woman of the Year reception
Members of the public are encouraged to attend a reception honoring Sherry Stark as The Republic’s 2013 Woman of the Year at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Donner Center, 739 22nd St., Columbus.
Refreshments will be provided.
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