Money is pledged for MSSU sports facilities
February 18, 2011


JOPLIN - The Robert W. Plaster Foundation has pledged two substantial seven-figure gifts to the Missouri Southern Foundation, it was announced today during a regular MSSU Board of Governors meeting. The gifts, which represent the largest contribution ever made to the foundation, will be used to help fund the construction of a baseball field and a multi-purpose athletic facility adjacent to the football field. The donation also will be used to renovate Fred G. Hughes Stadium.

"We feel these projects are important for the well being of our student-athletes," said Rod Anderson, chair of the MSSU Board of Governors, "and these gifts are a critical first step in the funding process."

Plaster, who was an accounting student at Joplin Junior College in the 1950s, was known as an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. He formed Empire Gas Corporation in Lebanon, and before his death in 2008, he made significant contributions to educational institutions across the region. Buildings carrying the Plaster name are found at Crowder College, College of the Ozarks, Missouri State University, Southwest Baptist University and Missouri Southern with the Robert W. Plaster Foundation carrying on his philanthropic interests.

In recognition of these contributions, the board of governors today approved a resolution to name the southeast corner of the Missouri Southern campus, which encompasses many of the current athletic facilities, the Robert W. Plaster Sports Complex. In the future, providing additional funding is secured for a major renovation, Fred G. Hughes Stadium will become known as the Robert W. Plaster Stadium. Until such time, it will remain Fred G. Hughes Stadium.

"Mr. Hughes played a pivotal role in the creation of the University," said Anderson. "I know there was tremendous consideration given before recommending a potential change in the name of the stadium. Its important that people know he will continue to be honored on this campus, as he should be."

"Names on facilities sometimes need to change when the facility has reached the end of its useful life," said Dr. Mark Parsons, vice president for development and executive director of the foundation. "According to the Stadium Strategic Plan Committee, the stadium has reached that point. We know public funding will not be used for a stadium renovation so private funding must be sought. Mr. Hughes' name will remain on campus, however, as an alternative naming opportunity will be developed and granted."


The stadium at Missouri Southern was named the Fred G. Hughes Stadium in 1978 in commemoration of Hughes' role in the creation of the university and his service on the original MSSU Board of Trustees and Regents. While a number of options can be developed, one alternative naming opportunity being considered for Hughes is naming an entrance plaza connected to the renovated football stadium in his honor.

"The plaza would keep him connected to football and would provide the opportunity to tell his story in a manner that would be easily accessible to anyone near the stadium through biographical tributes included in the plaza," said Parsons.

"Efforts to secure a lead gift for these projects have been ongoing for years," said Dr. Bruce Speck, MSSU president. "We are thrilled with these contributions in honor of one of our former students and we want to thank the trustees of the Robert W. Plaster Foundation. We are deeply appreciative of their generosity. They have made it possible for us to plan and execute fundraising campaigns for these major projects."

According to Jared Bruggeman, athletics director, a committee already has been formed to guide fundraising efforts for the baseball field, with the goal of having the team playing on campus by 2013. A similar committee will be formed for the multi-purpose building, which will include support facilities for football, track, baseball, and softball. This group will develop strategies and time lines for a fundraising campaign. The football stadium campaign will begin at a later date once the baseball field and multi-purpose facility are completed.

"The well-being of our student-athletes is a top priority," said Bruggeman. "These gifts and the fundraising campaigns that follow are going to enable us to make sure the students have the safest and most positive experience possible while representing Missouri Southern."

These gifts mark an important step in strategic planning that began several years ago. In 2005, Dr. Julio Leon, then MSSU president, created a Stadium Strategic Plan Committee to study the needs of the football stadium. In 2006, the committee, chaired by then athletics director Sallie Beard, recommended the construction of a multi-purpose facility and renovation of both the west and east stands at the stadium. In 2007, a stadium master plan was completed by the same committee as a follow-up to that report. This was a multi-phased plan that included the multi-purpose building, the stadium renovation and also added an on-campus baseball field.

"We took a great many things into consideration when developing those plans," said Beard. "We wanted to think big, yet set a flexible plan that could be adjusted as necessary and implemented over time. We knew the importance of the facilities to the well-being of our student-athletes and to others who also use the facilities, but we also recognized the challenge of funding these projects."

In 2008, progress on the plan continued when Speck asked the board of Governors to authorize fundraising to create drawings for the multi-purpose facility and baseball stadium. These were completed in 2009.

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