Stark Foundation announces CEO retirement, succession

Published 9:50 am Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Special to The Leader

The Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation announces the retirement of Walter G. Riedel III as President and CEO of the Stark Foundation effective February 28, 2017, after more than 40 years of service to the organization.

Riedel originally began his accounting career at the former First National Bank in Orange in 1972 following his graduation from SMU. He transferred for a short period to a FNB branch in the Houston area before returning to Orange in 1977 to work as Nelda C. Stark’s private accountant and, also, as a Stark Foundation staff member.

In 1986, Riedel became Controller of the Foundation upon the retirement of his long-time friend and mentor, Sid Phillips. He was also named to the Board of Directors of the Foundation upon his advancement. He continued to work primarily in an accounting capacity until the death of Mrs. Stark on December 13, 1999, at which time the Board of Directors named Riedel as Stark Foundation President and CEO.

During Riedel’s tenure as the Foundation’s President and CEO over the past 17 years, he has guided the organization through a significant expansion in vision, operation, and programming, including the construction of Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, the conversion in legal status of the organization from a private grant making foundation to a private operating foundation, and most recently, the addition of a Museum annex building for education, library and archival operations.

At a surprise retirement reception held in honor of Riedel at the Stark Foundation office on Friday, February 24, 2017, he expressed his gratitude to Foundation employees and volunteers for their work and support over the years, and he acknowledged them as the true reason for the positive impact of the Stark Foundation in the community and region.

He was showered at the reception with numerous items, including farewell theme cakes and cards from past and present Foundation employees, volunteers, community leaders, and reception guests that were inscribed with messages, stories, remembrances and photos. A presentation was also made by his successor, Tad McKee, announcing that the first-floor space of the new Museum annex building will be named in Riedel’s honor as “The Walter G. Riedel III Education Center”.

Riedel will be succeeded as President and CEO by Clyde V. “Tad” McKee III. McKee was born and raised in Orange, where he graduated from Stark High School. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology and an MBA from Baylor University. McKee then received his CPA certificate and began work at Alford Meroney CPAs in San Antonio, which thereafter merged with Ernst & Young, before he left for an 11-year period with the El Paso Natural Gas Company. In 1991, McKee returned to Orange to work for Nelda C. Stark and the Stark Foundation, and he has worked with the Foundation since that time, most recently in the capacity of Vice President and Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer.

McKee is the president elect of the Greater Orange Chamber of Commerce, a long-time board member of the Malloy Foundation, a member of the Texas Interscholastic League Foundation — the academic arm of the state’s University Scholastic League — and a long-time member of the Orange Lions Club.

McKee is the son of Mary Louise Bevil and Clyde V. McKee, Jr.  McKee ‘s father, Clyde, came to Orange in 1947 to handle the personal, legal, and business affairs of H.J. Lutcher Stark. Mr. Clyde McKee, Jr. began working full time for Mr. Stark in 1956 and retired in 1996 after 40 years of service. He was instrumental in handling the legal work that resulted in the creation of the Stark Foundation by Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark in 1961.

Jennifer Staton, the Foundation’s Controller, has been promoted to succeed Tad McKee in the position of VP-CFO/Treasurer. Jennifer was also born and raised in Orange. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School and thereafter Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Accounting from Texas A&M University. She then received a Master of Science Degree in Finance, also from Texas A&M University. She has worked as a CPA for more than 16 years in public accounting, both for and with various industries in the Southeast Texas region. Staton has been employed with the Stark Foundation since 2011.

At the recent Annual Meeting of the Stark Foundation’s Board of Directors, Staton was named to the Board of Directors, of which McKee is already a member. Riedel, who will continue to serve as a Foundation board member, was named as Chairman of the Board of Directors following the end of the term of the prior chairman, Larry David.

The Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation is a private operating foundation established in 1961 to encourage and assist education and to improve and enrich the quality of life in Southeast Texas.

The Stark Foundation seeks to continue the legacy of its founders through the programs of the Stark Museum of Art, The W.H. Stark House, Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, and the Frances Ann Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts, as well as through the Miriam Lutcher Stark Contest in Reading and Declamation, a qualified scholarship program for public high school students in Orange County, Texas. These venues, programs and activities provide the community and region with rich resources and opportunities for study and enjoyment of the arts, nature, history, and culture as well as literary endeavors.