Though losing a leader, Lee retains his respected voice

Posted 7/9/17

Word of media legend George Starr’s retirement as longtime sports information director at Lee University comes as a bittersweet moment for the growing NCAA Division II school.

The bitter is that …

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Though losing a leader, Lee retains his respected voice


Word of media legend George Starr’s retirement as longtime sports information director at Lee University comes as a bittersweet moment for the growing NCAA Division II school.

The bitter is that Lee is losing one of the true greats in the profession.

The sweet is that although he’s hanging up his hat in sports information leadership, he is remaining an integral part of the university’s sports family as the director of Radio Broadcasting and Voice of the Flames for the Lee Athletic Department.

The transition took effect July 1.

In Southeast Tennessee — namely Bradley, McMinn and Hamilton counties — anyone who knows anything about sports is well familiar with George Starr ... the newspaperman, the photographer, the radio broadcaster and the “go-to” source for information on seemingly any sport throughout the region; and that includes high school and college programs.

An Athens native who got his start in newspapering as sports editor at the Daily Post-Athenian, it didn’t take long for the talented young writer’s roots to grow south as he and his family headed to this city to join the Cleveland Daily Banner as sports editor. It was a post he held for 12 years before looking west to a much larger media market in the Chattanooga Free Press.

Four years later, he returned to the Banner to resume his love for high school and college athletics in Cleveland and Bradley County. Although he never lost his love for sportswriting and telling the stories of young athletes, and their community-minded exploits on and off the field, Starr found himself eventually transitioning into another newsroom role.

In his latter years at the Banner, he served as managing editor and executive editor.

And that’s when the sports bug returned. Already a radio broadcaster for the old Lee Vikings of basketball — even while performing his demanding editor duties at the newspaper — Starr accepted a new challenge when Lee President Dr. Paul Conn and Athletic Director Larry Carpenter offered him the sports information director role.

To borrow from a familiar old adage, the rest is history. For the past 20 years, Starr has led Lee’s sports information campaign in a leadership role in three rising classifications: NCCAA, NAIA and in 2012 the university joined NCAA Division II, and now competes in the prestigious Gulf South Conference.

For Lee, the bad news to Starr’s retirement is the loss of a leadership style that has served in an integral role during athletic transitions whose demands can try the patience and test the soul of a lesser man or woman.

But the good news is he remains a part of the Lee family and will continue to offer his radio voice, and his love for the Cleveland-based university, in the continuing broadcast role for Flames basketball and baseball, as well as a variety of additional Lee sports programs.

In a media statement to our newspaper, Conn pointed to the significance of Starr’s influence on Lee athletics, and his commitment to the university’s young student athletes.

“George is a huge part of the fabric of Lee athletics,” Conn stressed. “I have often called him ‘the hardest-working person at Lee,’ and I think that’s true.”

Such is the truth about George Starr wherever he has hung his hat. Whether sportswriting in Athens, Chattanooga or Cleveland, or taking photographs or directing assignments in a busy newsroom, or publishing media guides for a growing university, his work ethic has been unparalleled among his peers.

Conn also recognizes the human factor in Starr’s retirement.

“... He is a personal friend,” Conn offered. “I will miss seeing him around campus on an everyday basis.”

Carpenter feels the same, although he looks to the future and to Starr’s new commitment.

“I am excited about the next chapter in George’s life,” Carpenter said. “In his new role, he will be able to focus more on our broadcasts which I hope will include doing additional play-by-play in some of the other sports that we currently livestream.”

Starr’s retirement also will allow him more time to return to one of his deepest passions; that is, writing sports features and telling the stories of past and present athletes, and past and present coaches, at his beloved university campus.

When it comes to a man like George Starr, he’s a believer in sports and how the thrill of competition can help mold any young man, and any young woman — one who can lead, whether it be in this community or another.

But for this talented journalist, life in athletics is not just about the win. It’s also about what we learn, and how we learn it, when we don’t.

Writing about the achievements of young people as they embark on lives of their own has been, as Starr himself says it, “... a wonderful feeling.”

We wish for him many more such opportunities.

Thanks to Lee University and its administrators who understand loyalty, talent and potential, he will get them.

Our best of wishes to this rising Starr, and whose glow we pray will never grow dim.


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