In Memoriam: 1984-86 NAR Treasurer Phillip C. Stark

February 28, 2020

Phillip C. Stark in 1985.

Phillip C. Stark in 1985.

Phillip C. Stark, who served as treasurer of the National Association of REALTORS® from 1984 to 1986, passed away in Madison, Wisconsin, on February 11, 2020. He was 94.

During his two years as treasurer, the real estate industry was recovering from the steep recession of the early 1980s, as NAR rebounded from several years of declining membership and mixed financial statements. Stark worked to diversify the association’s revenue streams, adding more investment and non-dues income sources and curtailing expenses to counter the heavy reliance on member dues.

By November 1986, Stark proudly reported that the association was on solid financial footing and better positioned to meet the needs of the rapidly increasing membership, which closed out the year at more than 770,000, a record high at the time.

Stark was known as an influential and innovative force in the real estate industry, coming from a family with a long history of involvement in the business. His family’s firm, Stark Company REALTORS®, is one of the oldest and largest real estate brokerages in south central Wisconsin, established in 1908 by his grandfather. In 1916, his father, Paul E. Stark, helped organize what is now known as the REALTORS® Association of South Central Wisconsin and later served as NAR president in 1937.

Upon graduating from high school in 1943, Stark joined the Army, serving as a machine gunner in the 84th Infantry Division during World War II, an experience which had a profound impact on his approach to life. “The training taught me respect for authority and teamwork,” he wrote in a reminiscence of his time in the military. “I became buddies with men of greatly diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. During my Army days, I was on a fast maturation track.”

Wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, for which he earned a Purple Heart and a Silver Star, he returned to Madison and began his real estate career as an office manager at Stark Company REALTORS® in 1948. 

He became president of Stark Company REALTORS® in 1965, a position he held until handing over the reins to his son, David, in 1989. In the 1970s stark was an early proponent of the concept of mortgage prequalification, and, at a time when leadership opportunities were rare for women in real estate, he promoted a female sales agent, Sue Wiskowski-Fair, to manage the company’s first branch office in 1977. “It was definitely a surprise to the male agents at the firm,” Wiskowski-Fair recalls. “I was only the second woman salesperson to ever work at Stark.” She became the first woman president of the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association in 1986.

Making a positive difference in the lives of others was a central focus of Phillip Stark’s life as he devoted much of his time giving back to his profession and his community. He was involved with dozens of charitable organizations, including the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, YMCA, the Red Cross, and the Madison Community Foundation.

Prior to his role as NAR treasurer, he served on several national committees and was a Regional Vice President in 1982. At the age of 29 he became president of the REALTORS® Association of South Central Wisconsin, and later was president of the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association. He was recognized with a Distinguished Service Award by NAR in 1988.

Stark is survived by his wife of 67 years, Jane, their three sons, seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.