Southern mourns death of alum, friend

Dennis Weaver helped develop the Institute of Ecolonomics and was an active alumnus of Missouri Southern. He died Feb. 24 after battling cancer at age 81.

Special to the Chart

Dennis Weaver helped develop the Institute of Ecolonomics and was an active alumnus of Missouri Southern. He died Feb. 24 after battling cancer at age 81.

Jessica MacIntosh

After several contributions to Missouri Southern’s curriculum and a career founded in Hollywood, Dennis Weaver died Feb. 24 at the age of 81 after complications from cancer.

Weaver helped develop the ecolonomics programs at Southern, and came on several occasions to help promote environmental awareness.

Weaver was an active alumnus of Southern. He attended Joplin Junior College in 1943, but left to join the Naval Air Corps.

“We are all very saddened to hear of Dennis’ passing,” said Lee Elliff Pound, director of the Alumni Association.

Weaver was the first Outstanding Alumni in 1971.

Weaver also made several appearances on the KGCS-LP television show “Newsmakers” to promote his ideas and discuss Southern’s role in them.

“He was very passionate in his interests,” said Judy Stiles, KGCS general manager and host of “Newsmakers.” “He was a really genuine person.”

Weaver originally attended Joplin High School and after his stint in the Navy, he went to the University of Oklahoma where he graduated with a fine arts degree. He later went on to play Chester in the series “Gunsmoke” and the lead in “McCloud.”

However, Weaver was known for finding time to come back to his hometown.

“I think the nice thing about him was anytime he had a chance to tell people where he had come from, he would tell them he was from Joplin,” said University President Julio León.

León met Weaver whenever he had a chance to come to campus.

“He paid attention to you,” León said. “He made you feel like you were the only person in the world.”

Pound said Weaver did what he could to help where he could.

“He worked with us for the All-Star Roundup,” Pound said. “He was so giving at the time to help bring friends of his to Missouri Southern to help get that project going. He brought Linda Gray from [the TV show] ‘Dallas.'”

Pound said Gray told the story of how Weaver helped her spawn her career.

Stiles said Weaver helped with public service announcements when he was in Joplin. He worked on several commercials promoting the University, but he also worked with several local organizations.

“He helped do a PSA for the Joplin Recycling Center and the local Audubon Center,” Stiles said. “The Visions Unlimited senior citizens group asked him if he would do a PSA for them, and he did one there on the spot.”

Stiles is also helping to create a memorial program about Weaver’s involvement with Southern.

“We don’t want to delve into his Hollywood career,” she said.

The program will focus on the development of the ecolonomics program at Southern.

“It was interesting in how it progressed,” she said. “From a media perspective, he was very enjoyable to interview.”

Rob Wood, director of the Institute of Ecolonomics, said Weaver developed the term “ecolonomics.”

“He took economic and ecology and put them together,” Wood said. “He looked at it as they are two sides of the same coin. Too often we have economic concerns and environmental concerns that are opposite each other.”

Southern was one of the first institutions to develop an ecolonomics program.

Wood said Weaver was close to the program, too.

“The first time I met Dennis, I was a student here,” Wood said. “I was in the ecolonomics class. It was the first class that they were having for MIDS 402, and Dennis came in and spoke to us.”

He said Weaver came last semester to help promote a conference on environmental awareness.

During his stay, Weaver did a one-man show titled, “An Evening with Shakespeare.”

The faculty members who remember meeting Weaver each have their personal mementos of their initial visit with him.

León has several pictures in his office of his meetings with Weaver, including several with Weaver’s wife, Gerry.

“She is a very nice person, too,” León said. “They were always together.”

Stiles and León said anytime they saw the couple together, they were hand-in-hand.

At the time of publication, there were no formal plans for a memorial in dedication to Weaver, but León said the University will do something in the future.

All said they will help to keep Weaver’s memory in the University’s practices.

“Once we get into the Mansion, we are going to have some display areas,” Pound said. “On one of the displays we will have the final ‘McCloud’ script that not only did he star in, but he directed. We will have it on display with other items.”

Wood said he will keep with the traditions Weaver started.

“The Institute is going to continue to carry on the goals and dreams that he had when he came up with the idea,” he said.

Gerry has asked for donations to keep the ecolonomics program and the Ecolonomics Institution going.