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Robert Plaster speaks at the Aug. 25 dedication of the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center at the Students in Free Enterprise world headquarters in northeast Springfield. Plaster was the lead benefactor for the $6.5 million center.
Robert Plaster speaks at the Aug. 25 dedication of the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center at the Students in Free Enterprise world headquarters in northeast Springfield. Plaster was the lead benefactor for the $6.5 million center.

Longtime donor, businessman Plaster dies

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Robert W. Plaster, a longtime proponent of higher education and free enterprise in southwest Missouri, died of natural causes Saturday at the age of 78.

Visitation will be 7-9 p.m. tonight and services will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Holman-Howe Funeral Home in Lebanon, according to the funeral home's Web site. A memorial has been established to Students in Free Enterprise, and donations may be made through Holman-Howe.

Plaster was founder of Empire Gas and chairman of Lebanon's Evergreen Investments LLC. He perhaps was most known by his name which graces buildings at several colleges and universities in southwest Missouri, because of his millions in donations over the years.

Schools on the receiving end of his contributions included Missouri State University, which houses the Robert W. Plaster Sports Complex and Plaster Student Union; Southwest Baptist University, which houses Plaster Stadium; Missouri Southern State University, which houses the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center and the Robert W. Plaster School of Business; Crowder College; and College of the Ozarks.

Plaster received an honorary doctorate from MSSU in Joplin in 2007.

Plaster also was instrumental in bringing SIFE to SBU in the 1980s and turning the organization into what it is today - a business organization reaching 1,500 colleges and universities in 46 countries. Plaster was the lead benefactor for the new $6.5 million Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center that opened earlier this year at the SIFE world headquarters in northeast Springfield.

Plaster was recently at the center of controversy after an attempt to turn Table Rock Lake land he owned into a village. His plan met with community opposition, which ultimately led to a repeal this year of the state's so-called "village law."[[In-content Ad]]

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