During the last week, two local universities have reminded Kansas City of Robert W. Plaster’s commitment to helping students. Park University announced on Sept. 18 that three donations would launch the construction of a new business school, set to be called the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center. Then on September 20, UMKC broke ground on a new engineering building, which would be called The Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise and Research Center.
So, who was Robert Plaster?
Well, according to the Robert W. Plaster Foundation website, Plaster hails from the small Missouri town of Neosho. His life was one of hard work and defying odds. He attended Joplin Junior College, but after three semesters had to leave to work full time because he could no longer afford tuition. His resume included the U.S. Treasury Department and a Liquid Propane gas corporation, but Plaster eventually started his own LP gas company in 1963 called Empire Gas Corporation, which became “one of the largest retail LP gas distributors in the United States and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.”
Plaster sold Empire Gas in 1996 and founded Evergreen Investments. It was at this time Plaster truly began showing his commitment to enterprise. He co-founded and actively supported Enactus, at that time known as Students in Free Enterprise, and according to the foundation’s website, “after achieving financial success he felt very strongly that he wanted to help open educational opportunities for young people, particularly in southwest Missouri and the surrounding region, to give them a better educational start than he was able to have. To that end, in 1983 he established the Robert W. Plaster Foundation which is dedicated to helping students by funding projects for colleges and universities.”