S. Frederick Starr

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S. Frederick Starr
12th President of Oberlin College
In office
July 1983 (1983-07)[1] – June 1994 (1994-06)[2]
Preceded by Emil Danenberg
Succeeded by Nancy Dye
Personal details
Born Stephen Frederick Starr
(1940-03-24) March 24, 1940 (age 76)
Alma mater Yale University (undergraduate)
Princeton University (PhD)
Profession Russian and Eurasian affairs expert, historian, musician

Stephen Frederick Starr (born March 24, 1940) is an American expert on Russian and Eurasian affairs, a noted musician,[3] and a former college president, having served as President of Oberlin College for 11 years.

Founder and Chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, he is fluent in Russian, and is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 articles on Russian and Eurasian affairs.[4] Starr's expertise is in Afghanistan, Central Asia, the Caucasus, Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Union. He focuses on developing nations, energy and environment issues, Islamic faith, culture and law, and oil politics.

Starr has advised three U.S. presidents on Russian/Eurasian affairs and chaired an external advisory panel on U.S. government-sponsored research on the region, organized and co-authored the first comprehensive strategic assessment of Central Asia, the Caucasus and Afghanistan for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1999, and has followed up by close involvement in drafting of recent U.S. legislation affecting the region.

He is a research professor at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.


Academic career[edit]

Starr earned his B.A. Degree at Yale University in 1962 and his Ph.D. in history at Princeton University.

He began work in the Turkic world as an archaeologist in Turkey and in 1974[5] on to found the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, which opened U.S. research contact with Central Asia. Starr served as vice president of Tulane University from 1979-1982,[5] as well as its vice provost from 1980–1981.

Starr served as the 12th president of Oberlin College from 1983–1994. Hired after a nationwide search, Starr's academic and musical accomplishments boded well for his stewardship of both the College and the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music.[6] However, despite increasing minority hiring,[6] Starr's tenure was marked by clashes with students over such issues as divestment from South Africa and the dismissal of a campus minister,[6] as well as Starr's general approach of reframing Oberlin as the "Harvard of the Midwest."[7]

After a particularly vitriolic clash with students that took place on the front lawn of his home in April 1990,[7] Starr took a leave of absence as president from July of 1991 – February 1992.[6] He officially resigned in March of 1993, effective to June of that year.[6]

After leaving Oberlin, he was president of the Aspen Institute[6] from 1994–1996.[5]


Journalist Ken Silverstein has dubbed Starr “The Professor of Repression” due to his support for corrupt despotic regimes in the Caspian region.[8] Similarly, a book on the 2008 Georgian-Russian war co-edited by Starr was criticized for lack of impartiality.[9]


In 1980 Starr, a talented jazz clarinetist, cofounded the Louisiana Repertory Jazz Ensemble while serving at Tulane. Its members dedicate themselves to preserving the raucous pre-1930 jazz of New Orleans. The LRJE has performed across the United States. It gave the Doubleday Lecture at the Smithsonian Institution in March 1983, toured France and the Soviet Union, and made national television appearances in Italy, Japan and Sweden. Jazz historian Al Rose once called the LRJE "the most authentic band on the scene today".[10] The Ensemble's albums include Alive and Well (1981), Uptown Jazz (1984) and Hot & Sweet: Sounds of Lost New Orleans (1986).



  1. ^ "Presidents of Oberlin College". Oberlin College Archives. Oberlin College. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  2. ^ "S. Frederick Starr Presidential Papers". Oberlin College Archives. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 
  3. ^ "S. Frederick Starr papers". New York Public Library Archives & Manuscripts. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 
  4. ^ S. Frederick Starr, Ph.D," Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University website. Accessed Dec. 16, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c "Dr. S. Frederick Starr," Institute for Security & Development Policy website. Accessed Nov. 4, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "2/12 - S. Frederick Starr (1940- )," Oberlin College website. Accessed Nov. 5, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Foss, Sara and Miller, Hanna. "Pomp and circumstances: Nancy Dye's first four years," Oberlin Review (May 22, 1998).
  8. ^ Silverstein, Ken. "Academics for Hire", Harper's Magazine (May 2006)
  9. ^ Bruckner, Till. "Book Review: The Guns of August 2008" Caucasian Review of International Affairs, winter 2010". cria-online.org. 
  10. ^ "Louis Armstrong Centennial Conference: Biographies of Participants". Satchmo.com. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 

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