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Published April 25, 2023
By Kaitlyn Polley
John Stark’s experiences have given him a passion and love for the University of Wyoming, Laramie and the Wyoming community. From anticipation for students arriving in the fall, to the excitement of football games, to the feeling of community that UW fosters, he has a fondness for UW that stayed with him after leaving Laramie — and then returning.
Stark is a UW alum and serves as president and CEO of the UW Foundation.
“UW exists in a happy medium,” says Stark. “It has all the benefits of a large-scale school while maintaining a small-school atmosphere. Being the only university in the state, UW is able to make all of Wyoming feel like one community.”
In 1986, Stark graduated from UW with a bachelor’s degree in finance. He went on to earn his J.D. from the University of Oklahoma and returned to Wyoming to work as an attorney in Jackson.
Then, in 2000, Stark decided he was ready for a change and came back to UW to work as associate athletic director in UW Athletics and executive director of the Cowboy Joe Club. He then moved to the UW Foundation in 2006 to serve as vice president for development.
Now, in 2023, Stark is the president and CEO of the UW Foundation. In reflecting back on his time at UW as a student, he recognizes the invaluable experiences and opportunities he had.
“No one plans to become a leader of the university they attended,” says Stark. “However, the passion, the love, the community at UW is what always kept it in my mind. Being a UW student was special, and coming back to UW for much of my career, I am able to feel that same special experience.”
As a member of Greek life in college, Stark was exposed to leadership opportunities at a relatively young age. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but those experiences were a great training ground for what I would experience professionally in terms of leadership and organizations.”
Between his education as a student and his passion for the university, it was inevitable that Stark would eventually return.
In his current role at the UW Foundation, Stark makes a profound impact on current and future UW students by growing the foundation and its network — which grows investment in UW. Whether it’s through endowments for student scholarships, finding support for faculty research, or renewing and adding new spaces to the UW campus, he is making lasting impacts on UW students of today and tomorrow.
Stark’s time as a UW student was foundational in starting his career, and ultimately it was also what brought him back to lead the UW Foundation.