Donations support recreation center, school of business

Rebecca Watts

Summertime donations to the Missouri Southern Foundation from Robert W. Plaster and Mr. and Mrs. George S. Beimdiek and have set the wheels of improvement plans in motion.

Plaster contributed a significant seven-digit gift to Southern. This donation, announced June 19, is the largest one Southern has ever received. The exact amount of this donation is confidential at Plaster’s request.

University President Julio León said Plaster, a Joplin Junior College student in the 1950s, maintains warm feelings toward the university.

“He remembered very fondly of the professors,” he said. “In regards to this, he got a significant start on an educational standing point, he wanted to do something for his alma mater.”

Both the Plaster and the Beimdiek’s donations will help construct the new recreation center as well as support the School of Business Administration. In honor of Plaster’s gift, Matthews Hall will be renamed the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center and will house the renamed Robert W. Plaster School of Business Administration.

Curt Betebenner, director of The Missouri Southern Foundation, said Plaster studied accounting and business at Joplin Junior College and has maintained relationships at Southern for years. These relationships are what initiate donations, Betebenner said.

“We talked to [Plaster] about a lot of things over a long period of time,” Betebenner said. “You talk to people, you build relationships, you make them aware of what’s on campus, and then if they decide to help you out, they will.”

Plaster has also made contributions to Crowder College, Southwest Baptist University, College of the Ozarks and Missouri State. He also established a scholarship for Carthage High School graduates.

The $1 million Beimdiek donation, announced June 30, will help construct the new Student Recreation Center.

“The new recreation center will be a major communication tool for us,” said Darren Fullerton, director of campus recreation and wellness. “This is going to be the new social hub of the campus–where students can hang out even if they’re not into weight-lifting or aerobics. It will be a social center as well.”

According to Fullerton, the center will be named after the Beimdieks and will be attached to the north side of the Billingsly Student Center. If all goes well, it will open in the fall of 2008.

“We’re looking at trying to keep the student fees as low as possible, and still get a building that the students actually wanted,” Fullerton said.

The Beimdiek family has strong ties to the University. The Beimdiek’s daughter and son-in-law, Carolyn and John (Pat) Phelps, both served as president of the Board of Regents, today known as the Board of Governors.

Carolyn also serves on the Missouri Southern Foundation Board of Directors.

George Beimdiek also founded a scholarship for Southern students in remembrance of the late Mrs. Beimdiek. More than 70 students have received the Geraldine B. Beimdiek Scholarship.

Two previous donations paved the way for these recent contributions. Dr. and Mrs. Robert L. Wilcoxon donated an undisclosed amount and the Lemons Charitable Trust, through U.S. Bank, donated $125,000 to the new recreation center. These two contributions initiated the architectural plans, which influenced the seven-digit gifts.

“We’re very appreciative when anybody makes that kind of a commitment to Missouri Southern–it speaks well of the University and the work that we do,” Betebenner said. “People the community support and appreciate what we do, and we’re very fortunate to have those kind of people out there interested in us.”