John Wayne Stark was born 16 December 1915 in Lamesa, Texas. After graduating from high school in the small west Texas town of Winters, Stark received a bachelor’s degree in history from Texas A&M in 1939. He attended the University of Texas Law School but withdrew before graduating to serve in World War II.
After the war, he returned to campus in 1947 to oversee construction of the Memorial Student Center. Over the following years, he played a major role in developing such programs as the Opera and Performing Arts Society (OPAS), the Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA), and the Great Issues and Political Forum programs. Many world leaders and famous performers have come to the Texas A&M campus as a result of those programs.
Stark became the Texas A&M sponsor for Experiment in International Living in 1959. This program enabled approximately 400 A&M students to travel overseas to live and work. In 1980, after 33 years of serving as the MSC director, Stark retired and continued to serve the university for a decade as special assistant to the president.
Aside from his involvement with Texas A&M, Stark was also actively involved in arts and civic activities in Bryan/College Station and across the state. He was also a former president of the Association of College Unions-International.
Stark was awarded the Andy Anderson Award by the Arts Council of the Brazos Valley in 1985. He was described in the award citation as, “An individual who gave every ounce of his soul for the betterment of the community.” He was also honored with the Distinguished Achievement Award for Individual Student Relationships from Texas A&M’s Association of Former Students.
Upon his death in 1993, The Battalion saluted Stark’s lifetime of service to Texas A&M in a 12 January tribute, “Those who worked closely with J. Wayne Stark said he did more for students than perhaps any other faculty or staff member in the history of Texas A&M University.”