Scholarship Endowment Honors Student and Kappa Alpha Order Brother
Written by Amanda Milewski, Fall 2022 George Mason University Life In Review
Although he was a George Mason student for a relatively short period of time, Jeremy Lee Starns (Epsilon Phi–George Mason ’93) made the most of his time as a Patriot and left an indelible impact on his fellow classmates and Kappa Alpha Order brothers.
Now, brothers of the Kappa Alpha (KA) fraternity—old and new—are endowing a scholarship in memory of Starns, who passed away from a brain tumor during his sophomore year.
Scott Hughes BS ’94, MBA ’03, a KA brother and friend of Starns, characterized him as “a young man with a big heart facing impossible odds. He had a relentless spirit and gave all of his energies to the task in front of him and the people he cared for and loved.”
“Jeremy attended every social and fraternity function that he had the energy to attend,” Hughes remembered. “He couldn’t make all of them, but he darn sure tried to.” Jeremy was undeterred and felt a deep responsibility to contribute to the fraternity and to do far more than his fair share. “It may sound strange that I found lifelong inspiration in his actions—you really learn what kind of person someone is when life gets difficult,” remarked Hughes.
KA brothers established the scholarship in his memory soon after his passing in 1994 but were not able to raise enough money, $10,000 back then, to fully endow it. “Most of us were still in school,” confirmed Hughes. “We were young and were just at the beginnings stages of our career paths,” he continued. “We really didn’t have enough financial resources then.”
Ed Gagermeier BS ’91, a founder of the George Mason KA chapter, was already an alumnus when Starns passed away but had met him at KA events since he still lived in the area. “I only met Jeremy a few times,” he said, “but knowing his life was shorter than most, I wanted to make sure his name would not be forgotten.”
Gagermeier asserted that there was “at least a small effort to raise money most years after Jeremy passed.” KA brothers sent mailings to alumni who knew Jeremy, but the fundraising still wasn’t enough to endow a scholarship which now costs $25,000.
“Unfinished business is not something that sits well with anybody. We needed to finish this one,” declared Hughes.
Gagermeier contacted current KA philanthropy chair Benjamin Flett. “Early in the calendar year, he reached out to me to talk about building the scholarship,” Flett recounted. “As he was talking about the scholarship, I could tell there was passion behind his words.” Because of his position as philanthropy chair, Flett “knew I was in the position to make some real progress to the end goal.”
Although KA’s suggested philanthropy is the Muscular Dystrophy Association, during their annual “Muscle Week” fundraiser, the brothers chose to earmark the money for the Starns scholarship. Flett noted that two chapter alumni agreed to match every dollar raised through Muscle Week, bringing the grand total of their efforts to $5,400.
Starns’ attitude and determination no doubt continue to inspire his fraternity brothers to make a big push to raise the additional money needed for the scholarship endowment. Once endowed, the scholarship will benefit an active member of a student organization at George Mason. Additionally, applicants will need to submit an essay describing how they faced and overcame an obstacle in their own life, just as Starns did.
The scholarship will ease the financial burden of a Mason student but also will continue the legacy of a fellow Patriot and KA brother who fought hard “to live his short life to the fullest,” stated Gagermeier. Through the scholarship, Starns’ name and character will forever be associated with George Mason and Kappa Alpha, a well-deserved tribute.
Although his time at Mason was much too short, his impact was great. “I was so impressed with his character,” Hughes exclaimed, “I proudly named my oldest son after him.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the Jeremy Lee Starns Memorial Scholarship, or contributing to the endowment, can contact Kaitlin Cicchetti, Director of Advancement for University Life, at email@example.com.