Southern supporter, honoree dies

The recipient of the Missouri Southern’s first honorary degree, Robert W. Plaster, died Oct. 11.

Plaster was known as a philanthropist and one of his special causes was higher education.

“He helped numerous universities, colleges and universities in the region so he helped a lot of young people,” Curt Betebenner, director of the Missouri Southern Foundation. “I think that’s one of the things I admire most about his philanthropy.”

The Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center and Robert W. Plaster School of Business Administration at Southern were renamed in honor of his summer 2006 donation.

Plaster and his son Steve attended the dedication of the building’s portico in December 2007.

Plaster also attended Joplin Junior College as an accounting student.

“He had a fond memory of the JUCO days, said Dr. John Tiede, director of major gifts and planned giving.

Tiede went with Dr. Julio Leon, president emeritus, on his first visit with Plaster.

“He was as strong supporter of the free enterprise system – as you can tell by the name he chose to put on the building,” Tiede said. “I know he was a firm believer in free enterprise and the ability of a boy from Newton County to make good.”

Plaster received an honorary doctor of humane letters from Missouri Southern in May 2007. He also held an honorary doctor of business administration from Southwest Baptist University.

Dr. Bruce Speck, university president, said he was surprised at Plaster’s unexpected passing, the two had met weeks before at Plaster’s Lebanon office.

“He was a great benefactor to us and to many people in higher education,” Speck said.

The exact sum of Plaster’s seven-figure donation – the single largest in the history of MSSU – was never disclosed per an agreement with the donor.