After earning a bachelor’s degree in Economics at Vanderbilt and following military and government service in Europe Professor Starnes returned to the United States to earn an M.A. in German at Louisiana State University and a PhD at the University of Illinois, where he was a Graduate Fellow and then an Instructor. In 1966, after three years on the faculty at Miami University, he was appointed to the faculty at Tulane where he remained active until his retirement in 1996.
At Tulane he served two terms as department chairman while teaching undergraduate courses from Elementary and Intermediate German to Introduction to German Literature and Advanced Grammar. The Mortar Board recognized him with a certificate for excellence in teaching. His graduate courses included Bibliography and Methods, Survey of German Literature and Goethe’s Faust as well as seminars on Lessing, Wieland and Kleist. He directed a dozen or more theses as well as the dissertations of five students who went on to successful academic careers. In addition to his teaching at Tulane he was a Visiting Fellow at Newcastle University in England and twice appointed a Visiting Professor at the University of Brasilia. In 1970 he participated in the German Foreign Office’s “Gästeprogramm der Bundesrepublik” and in 1987 was named an honorary citizen of Biberach, Germany
His six published books include translations of German verse, studies of the journal Der Teutsche Merkur and a documentary biography of Christoph Martin Wieland. His research was supported over the years by more than a dozen agencies, including the National Endowment for the Humanities , the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik and the Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst Baden-Württemberg.