Starr named 2017 Outstanding Engineering Alumnus


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – John Starr (’90 E SC), senior vice president of Solution Delivery Centers for SAP, has been named a 2017 Outstanding Engineering Alumnus by the Penn State College of Engineering.

The Outstanding Engineering Alumni (OEA) Award recognizes graduates who have reached exceptional levels of professional achievement. It rewards outstanding alumni for their success in their field and for the impact they have had and will continue to have on society and their profession. Established in 1966, the award is the highest honor bestowed by the college.

Starr, along with the college’s other 11 OEA Award recipients, will receive his award at a ceremony on April 20 at the Nittany Lion Inn on the University Park campus of Penn State.

“This award took me by complete surprise,” said Starr. “I had to look at the letter three times before I believed it. It’s a tremendous honor.”

In his role at SAP, Starr leads a global organization of 2,000 IT professionals, with teams in 14 countries, which provides software services to companies around the world.

Prior to his appointment at SAP, Starr served as senior vice president of global services at Ariba, a software and information technology services company that provides cloud-based solutions for managing business commerce. Starr was responsible for establishing and leading delivery service teams across the globe to enable Ariba’s global expansion.

Before joining Ariba, Starr held additional leadership positions. He served as director of operations for FreeMarkets, a dot-com company that provides software, services, and solutions to address the global supply management market. Starr also worked for Respironics, a medical devices manufacturer, where he led new business development and new product development groups that were responsible for launching more than 10 new products, and where he earned seven U.S. patents for respiratory devices.

Starr began his career at Westinghouse as a mechanical engineer, where he helped build Trident submarine missile launch systems and design Seawolf submarine secondary propulsion systems using some of the earliest versions of finite element analysis software.

Starr, who grew up on a farm in Allegheny Township in Westmoreland County, outside of Pittsburgh, and graduated from Kiski Area High School in 1986, actually began his college career well before he ever set foot on the University Park campus.

“I took my first college course in 1983 during the summer after ninth grade,” said Starr. “I was interested in computers, so I convinced Penn State New Kensington to allow me to enroll in Computer Science 101, which was a Fortran-based computer programming course for engineering students.” 

Starr scored an A in the class, and that opened the door for even more courses. By the time he graduated high school, Starr had earned 23 college credits at Penn State.

At Penn State, Starr started off in electrical engineering, but following an ice cream social hosted by the University Scholars Program, now named the Schreyer Honors College, he learned more about the Engineering Science program. It was then that he shifted his focus towards the major—and on engineering mechanics, strength and materials, in particular—that would build the foundation for his career.

“What I liked most about engineering science was that I would be able to take a broader set of engineering classes that would expose me to more engineering disciplines. I took aerospace classes, mechanical classes, nuclear engineering classes, and experienced the many different flavors of engineering,” said Starr. “I really liked the fact I was going to be a part of a smaller group of students who were a bit more serious about academics, but at the same time, I had the opportunity to be a part of something really big. I also felt there was a more personal relationship with the professors.”

While at Penn State, Starr was a member of the varsity wrestling team; Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, where he was active in THON; and the Air Force ROTC program. He later earned an MBA with a focus on operations, entrepreneurship, and finance in 1996 from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Tepper School of Business, where he was honored as Entrepreneur of the Year. 

Starr is active in his local community. He is a volunteer for Westmoreland Economic Development Initiative for Growth, volunteers for Penns Corner Resource Conservation & Development Council, is involved with a real estate development company that focuses on urban renewal in Pittsburgh, and volunteers with the Tepper School at CMU. He also serves on the board of directors for a freight audit company owned by Spire Capital, a private equity firm based in New York City.

Along with his wife, Margie, and five children, Starr lives on their 170-acre certified organic family farm, Starr Valley Farm. There, his family manages 70 head of organic, grass-fed beef cattle, which feed approximately 100 other families in western Pennsylvania.


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Chris Spallino

John Starr ('90 E SC), 2017 Outstanding Engineering Alumnus

John Starr ('90 E SC), 2017 Outstanding Engineering Alumnus



The Penn State Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM) is an internationally distinguished department that is recognized for its globally competitive excellence in engineering and scientific accomplishments, research, and educational leadership.

Our Engineering Science program is the official undergraduate honors program of the College of Engineering, attracting the University’s brightest engineering students. We also offer graduate degrees in ESM, engineering mechanics, engineering at the nano-scale, and an integrated undergraduate/graduate program.

Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics

212 Earth and Engineering Sciences Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-4523