Philanthropist Bobby Allison, whose naming-level donations have been prevalent in recent years, has died.
Allison, 74, died this morning, said Tom Carter, co-owner of Springfield animal feed distributor Custom Protein Corp., where Allison worked for decades as vice president of sales. Carter cited natural causes.
"It's going to be a great loss to his friends and our company and the city," Carter said. "He was just a very generous person."
Allison, who named projects after himself and his mother, Betty Allison, gave millions of dollars worth of gifts to projects that support education, children and young adults.
Last year, he pledged between $3 million and $3.5 million for naming rights at the Betty & Bobby Allison Sports Town. Large signage that's been installed at the sports complex is featured at a Springfield entryway, near West Chestnut Expressway and Interstate 44.
Other naming-level donations from Allison include the Springfield Dream Center, several projects at Missouri State University, Mercy Hospital Springfield, the Springfield-Greene County Park Board and Twin Oaks Country Club, according to past reporting.
In a news release, MSU officials issued condolences for Allison, who was selected for the school's annual Bronze Bear Award in 2016.
“You can’t imagine a more humble or private person than Bobby Allison,” said Brent Dunn, executive director of the MSU Foundation, in the release. “He wanted to enrich all students’ lives – from toddlers through college. He cared about the student experience, which motivated him to give to athletics, recreation and other areas of the university.”
Allison's name additionally adorns the headquarters of Springfield nonprofit Harmony House.
"Bobby was instrumental in Harmony House being able to move into our current facility about six years ago," Executive Director Lisa Farmer said in a provided statement. "He provided the lead gift, and he did it because of his love for children.
"This is a huge loss for all of us in the Springfield community.”
Allison was known to be reserved and behind the scenes. He rarely spoke to the media, though Springfield Business Journal managed to interview him in 2014. He spoke of his mother, who died in 2002, and the area youth he supports.
“If it wasn’t for the thrill I get from seeing my name and hers together, my name wouldn’t be on anything,” he said at the time. “I haven’t accumulated it, as you’ve noticed. I’ve given it away. I’ve had some luck with some other projects besides Custom Protein.
“I’ve been involved in a little real estate, a little stock, this and that.”
Last year, Allison’s philanthropy toward local sports and recreation was recognized by the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame with his induction as a Sports Philanthropist and Humanitarian.
“Bobby is like that high school football player who would run through a brick wall for the team, only he would do it for Springfield and the entire Ozarks,” said Jerald Andrews, president and executive director of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, in a news release announcing Allison’s induction.
“His story is what we all should celebrate: A successful businessman who gives back to the community over and over again.”
The newest facility for Springfield-based preschool and early child care operator Little Sunshine’s Enterprises Inc. opened; a love of food and cooking spurred Brian Keener to launch Contorto; and a CrossFit gym in Marshfield changed owners.