New Concordia building to be named for Missouri businessman

Robert W. Plaster Foundation gave naming gift

A rendering of the 85,000-square-foot building proposed in 2016.

Concordia University Wisconsin will name its new academic building the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center after a Missouri-based foundation provided support for the project.

The proposed new academic building at Concordia University Wisconsin would have an entrepreneurial theme.
The proposed new academic building at Concordia University Wisconsin would have an entrepreneurial theme.

The Robert W. Plaster Foundation describes its mission as promoting “expanded educational opportunities, pride in America and belief in the free enterprise system, for the benefit of America’s youth through named capital projects.”

Concordia did not disclose the size of the naming gift in announcing the designation. In 2015, the Robert W. Plaster Foundation gave $1.76 million to Lindenwood College in Missouri for a 100,000-square-foot, $21 million business school, but also made five- and six-figure contributions to other colleges, primarily in Missouri.

Concordia is planning to build an 85,000-square-foot, four-story academic building on its Mequon campus. The building will house the business, education, hospitality and event management, and health professions programs. The plan calls for a “Wisconsin Entrepreneurs” theme in the building for the university to profile recognizable Wisconsin companies at a kiosk in the buildings. About 20 companies that support the project financially will be profiled in the building’s hallways.

Concordia had sought $5 million in state money to support the $24.6 million project, but Gov. Scott Walker recommended against the funding in his state capital budget. It’s not unheard of for private universities to receive state building support. Carroll University received $3 million for science related buildings and Marquette received money for its dental school.

The request for funds positioned the new building as a place that would “focus the regional dialogue related to innovation and entrepreneurship” and while also “paving the way for a new generation of job creators and employees with the skills necessary to help drive the Wisconsin economy for years to come.”

“We are so pleased to be involved in this project,” said Dolly Clement, Robert W. Plaster Foundation executive director and Plaster’s daughter. “My father grew up in poverty and wanted a college education because he knew it would give him a better start toward improving his life. After only three semesters of junior college he had to quit and go to work full time in order to make ends meet.”

Plaster died in 2008. His foundation was started in 1983. He was the founder of Empire Gas Corp. and later Evergreen Investments LLC. He was also a supporter and board member of Enactus, a nonprofit group of students, academics and business leaders focused on “using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better more sustainable world.”

“Once Dad had some success in business, he wanted to help students like himself, who wanted an education but could not afford it,” Clement said. “We are so proud to have Dad’s name on the building that will house Concordia’s Batterman School of Business.”

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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