Our Founders

Henry Jacob (H.J.) Lutcher Stark

Henry Jacob Lutcher Stark was a prominent businessman and philanthropist whose contributions to the community of Orange, Texas, in the early and mid 1900s continue to impact the city today. He was born in Orange on December 8, 1887, to Miriam Melissa Lutcher Stark and William Henry (W.H.) Stark. He had one sister, Frances (Fannie) Ann Stark, who died as a young child. He was the grandson of Henry Jacob Lutcher and his wife, Frances Ann Lutcher.

Lutcher Stark attended public school in Orange and graduated from the University of Texas in 1910 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He became active in banking, insurance, manufacturing, real estate and the petroleum industry; however, he was best known for his contributions to the lumber industry through the successful Lutcher & Moore Lumber Company founded by his grandfather, Henry Jacob Lutcher.

In 1919, Governor William P. Hobby appointed Lutcher Stark to the University of Texas Board of Regents, a position previously held by Lutcher Stark’s father. Lutcher Stark served on the board for a total of 24 years, including 12 years as chairman. Stark has been credited with naming the university’s mascot ” the Longhorn”. His name was added to the University’s Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1958. In the fall of 2009, the University of Texas will open the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports as part of its renovation of the Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, in recognition of Lutcher Stark’s long relationship with the university during his lifetime.

An active member in the community, Stark was a charter member of the Orange Rotary and a member of the Boy Scouts of America, the National Association of Audubon Society, the Iris Society of Louisiana, and the Texas Ornithological Society. He also sponsored the development and activities at local Orange schools, including the Bengal Guards, the Bengal Lancers, and the Lutcher Stark Boys Band.

Stark was also awarded two honorary doctor of laws degrees, one from Baylor University in 1933 and the other from Southwestern University, Memphis, Tennessee, in 1938. In 1963, Stark received a distinguished service award from Texas Woman’s University.

Lutcher Stark married Nita Hill of Austin, Texas, on April 6, 1911, and they later adopted twin boys, Homer B.H. Stark and William H. Stark II. Nita Hill Stark died on October 11, 1939. Stark thereafter married Ruby Childers, on April 6, 1941. She died on July 12, 1942. He then married Ruby’s sister, Nelda Childers, on December 16, 1943.

Together, Nelda and Lutcher Stark actively collected crystal, porcelain, and rare botanical books and prints. They also acquired a significant collection of American Western art, with a focus on Southwestern artists. Nature was another passion of Lutcher Stark, and this love led him to create Shangri La Botanical Gardens in Orange, Texas, in the 1940s. The gardens were open to the public and featured azaleas, Stark’s favorite flower, as well as wildlife such as swans, ducks, and egrets. The gardens closed in 1958 after being devastated by a major ice storm.

In 1961, Lutcher Stark, together with his wife, Nelda, established the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, a private operating foundation that aims to improve the quality of life in Southeast Texas by encouraging, promoting, and assisting education, the arts, and health and human services. Stark served as chairman until his death on September 2, 1965.

Upon his death, the bulk of Lutcher Stark’s estate passed to the Stark Foundation, which thereafter established the Stark Museum of Art, constructed the Frances Ann Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts, and restored The W.H. Stark House. The Foundation also restored and reopened in 2008 the gardens originally developed by Lutcher Stark in the 1940s, now known as Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, in order to further its educational mission as well as carry on the vision of Lutcher Stark. All of these venues are open to the public in fulfilling the charitable mandate of the Foundation that bears Lutcher Stark’s name.

The Stark Foundation today continues the philanthropic legacy of Lutcher Stark and his wife, Nelda, through the programs of the Stark Museum of Art, The W.H. Stark House, Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, and the Lutcher Theater as well as through the support of charitable programming in and around Southeast Texas.


Nelda Childers Stark

Nelda Childers Stark was a prominent businesswoman and philanthropist in Orange, Texas, who, along with her husband. Henry Jacob Lutcher Stark, made significant and lasting contributions to the community. She was born in Orange, Texas, on February 19, 1909, to James P. and Mary Martha Litchfield Childers.

She attended public schools in Orange and graduated from the College of Industrial Arts (now known as Texas Woman’s University) in 1930 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. She later served as administrator of the Frances Ann Lutcher Hospital in Orange.

Nelda Childers Stark was an alumna, former regent and long-time benefactor of Texas Woman’s University (TWU). She was named to the Board of Regents of TWU (then known as Texas State College for Women) in 1955 and served on that board for 20 years, including six years as vice chair. In 1957, she received the first honorary degree ever awarded by TWU for “singularly and exceptionally high civic and humanitarian achievements.” In 1966, TWU regents named a residence hall for Nelda Stark in recognition of her service and generosity to the university and, in 2006, TWU named the new college of nursing at its Institute of Health Sciences – Houston Center as the Nelda C. Stark College of Nursing.

Nelda Childers married Henry Jacob (H.J.) Lutcher Stark on December 16, 1943. Together, they actively collected crystal, porcelain, and rare botanical books and prints. They also acquired a significant collection of Western art, with a focus on Southwestern artists.

In 1961, Nelda and her husband, Lutcher, established the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, a private operating foundation that aims to improve the quality of life in Southeast Texas by encouraging, promoting, and assisting education, the arts, and health and human services. Nelda C. Stark served as chairperson of the Stark Foundation following her husband’s death in 1965 until her death in 1999.

Under Nelda C. Stark’s direction, the Foundation established the Stark Museum of Art, which opened on November 29, 1978. The Museum features works from the Starks’ collection and continues to grow the collection today. During Nelda Stark’s leadership, the Foundation also constructed the Frances Ann Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts, which held its first show in 1980, and restored The W.H. Stark House – the childhood home of her husband, H.J. Lutcher Stark, and his parents – which has been open to the public for guided tours since 1980. Nelda Stark also supervised the development of Stark Park, located in Orange, Texas.

Nelda Childers Stark died on December 13, 1999, and passed the bulk of her personal estate to the Stark Foundation, which continues the philanthropic legacy of Nelda Stark and her husband, Lutcher, through the programs of the Stark Museum of Art, The W.H. Stark House, Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, and the Lutcher Theater as well as through the support of charitable programming in and around Southeast Texas.