Terra Warner describes her and her late husband Don Warner’s parenting style as “hands-on.” Living on and having a love for both Pine Island and Maine gave their four daughters, Hailey, Sierra, Savannah and Starr, whom she admits were her and Don’s universe, quite a diverse foundation.
After spending the whole of her school life in both Maine and on Pine Island, Starr recently graduated summa cum laude from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton with a bachelor of urban design, a year early and was selected as the University Scholar for the College of Science for outstanding academic achievement.
During her undergraduate studies, Starr received a research grant to study the influence of the built environment on cognitive brain health and publish her undergrad thesis. She will be pursuing a master of architecture at Northeastern University in Boston, which has awarded her the prestigious Dean’s Scholarship.
According to her mother Terra, this is, in great part, a direct reflection of the relationship Starr had with her father, who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer when Starr was only 13, and passed when she was 18.
“He taught her, not only about building design, as he built our restaurant and our homes and designed places as he worked, but taught her to reach for the stars in everything she does from rock climbing and biking to snowboarding and kayaking — he never stopped teaching her and doing things with her, even with his handicaps,” Terra said. “He had her on water skis at 4 years old, tying them together with a rope and snow skiing with her on his back and even put her on downhill skis when she was 2. He had a feeding tube for several years and it would freeze up when he was skiing with her, but he’d thaw it out and keep skiing with her — I think it taught her to persevere.”
Don lost his voice when Starr was in high school, so she took sign language with him at night. Even though she had sports a job and AP classes to keep up with, her mother de ella said, she found the time and she also learned to change his feeding tube hook-up for nutrition and helped run the business when the family was in Boston doing cancer treatments.
Her mother describes Starr as an amazing support, saying her father was so proud of her.
“She studied often in the car and in hospital waiting rooms. She was struggling with the decision to leave for college but he wanted her to go. The morning she was to fly out, they held each other, saying goodbye, not knowing it was goodbye forever.” Terra said. “They were holding hands and he passed at the same time that she was leaving the hospital to go catch her flight to school. I was just standing there thinking, talk about empty nest — he’s gone and she’s gone in a split second at the same exact time. I just thought, he held her on right through his 7-year struggle and then she was like a bird taking off. ”
According to Terra, Starr sought out a research position in her undergrad, working under a professor studying the effects of green space on cognitive brain health. She was then inspired to apply for and receive a research grant to fund her own research, focused on the influence of the built environment on human brain health, specifically Alzheimer’s disease and reducing the effects of cognitive decline.
Starr presented her findings and won second place at the Florida Atlantic Undergraduate Research Symposium for Cross Disciplinary research. Her passion for her to study the connection between the built environment and health comes from a love of design, sustainability and ultimately improving human health.
Seeing her father go through cancer treatments as a young child really shaped how she wanted to make her impact on the world. After three successful years on the dean’s and president’s list at FAU, Starr graduated one year early with honors. In her senior year she was awarded the University Scholar of the Charles E Schmidt College of Science. She has taken this year to work as an urban designer/planner at a local landscape architecture firm, while applying to master of architecture programs across the nation. She accepted her offer at Northeastern University.
Don Warner’s favorite quote, according to his wife, was, “Put pride in your efforts — be proud of the results.” Something, she said, he told them all often.
Starr’s favorite quote, said her mother, is that “Life is coming from you, not at you,” and that’s how she lives her life.