Graduation Speaker is Billy Starr ’78, Founder and Executive Director of the Pan-Mass Challenge

Billy Starr

Billy Starr founded and leads the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), a two-day charity bike-a-thon in which thousands of cyclists pedal up to 192 miles across the state of Massachusetts. The event, held the first weekend in August each year, has raised more than $654 million for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts.

From its modest beginnings in 1980, the PMC is now the most successful athletic fundraising event in the country, with every dollar raised by cyclists directly supporting adult and pediatric cancer treatment and research.

Under Starr’s leadership, the PMC has grown exponentially over the last 39 years, proudly presenting a $56 million dollar gift to Dana-Farber in 2018, with a goal of raising $58 million during the 40th Ride Weekend in 2019. His commitment to raising funds for cancer research and patient care is rooted in his personal experience—his mother, Betty Starr, died at 49 of melanoma.

The organization’s mission is to provide Dana-Farber’s doctors and researchers with the necessary resources to discover cures for all cancers. With the commitment of more than 6,600 cyclists, corporate sponsors, individual contributors, and over 4,000 volunteers, the PMC increases its impact every year, having successfully aided in the development of new and innovative treatments.

Before starting the PMC, Starr was a newspaper reporter in Massachusetts and Colorado, worked in public relations, and was the squash coach at Babson College. He received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Denver in 1973 and a Master of Education from Northeastern University in 1978. He was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Babson College in 1998 and honorary degrees from Bay Path College in 2008 and Salem State University in 2014. Starr is considered a pioneer of the athletic fundraising industry and consults on event programming throughout the country.

An avid cyclist, skier, and racquet player, Starr has ridden in his own event—the Pan-Mass Challenge—for all 39 years.

Photo credit: John Deputy