Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
Mugar, Stephen P., 1901-1982
Stephen P. Mugar (1901-1982), H1979, was a lifelong philanthropist and major donor to Tufts University. Mugar Hall, on the Medford campus,was named in his honor.
Mugar was born on March 5, 1901, in Armenia. He came to the United States with his family in 1906, immediately prior to the Armenian massacres. In 1916, Sarkis Mugar, Stephen's father, bought a small grocery store in Watertown called Star Market. Stephen worked at Star while attending the Boston High School of Commerce until his graduation in 1919. He then began working at Fuller Brush Company, while continuing at Star and attending night classes at the Bentley School of Accounting and Finance. In 1923, Stephen took full responsibility for Star Market after his father was killed in an automobile accident.
Mugar began his philanthropy early on in life. In 1932, during the Depression-era bank holiday, Mugar announced that Star would extend credit to its customers and would also cash checks. In 1938, when a major hurricane hit Boston and much of the city lost power, Mugar cut five thousand pounds of dry ice into seven-pound blocks, and had Star employees deliver the blocks to homes where children and elderly lived so that their food would not spoil.
Between 1932 and 1964, Mugar expanded Star Market, and by 1964 he owned thirty-six supermarkets in the area. Mugar also acquired Brigham's Ice Cream in 1960. In 1964, Mugar merged Star and Brigham's with Jewel Tea, Inc., a Chicago company. Mugar continued as chairman of the board at Star until 1969, when he had completed fifty years of service.
Mugar was a longtime overseer of the Boys and Girls Club in Boston, and also founded the Hundred Club, an organization benefiting families of police and firemen killed in the line of duty. He also gave generously to many local colleges, including Boston University, where he established the Mugar Memorial Library, Boston College, Suffolk, Colby-Sawyer, Northeastern, Brandeis, and MIT. Mugar also donated the funds for Mugar Hall at Tufts.
Mugar served as a trustee at Boston University, Colby College, Northeastern, and Suffolk, and was a Fellow of Brandeis University. He received numerous honorary degrees recognizing his philanthropy, including a 1979 honorary degree from Tufts University.
Mugar died of natural causes on October 16, 1982.