Robert W. Plaster
Robert W. Plaster was born during the Great Depression and raised in the small southwest Missouri town of Neosho. Times were tough, and he began working as a young boy to help support the family. He worked at a local grocery store and maintained a paper route at Camp Crowder and established a strong work ethic. From an early age, his mother impressed upon him the importance of thinking positively. She taught him that "Can’t Never Could," a philosophy he carried and applied all his life.
After graduating from high school, Mr. Plaster attended Joplin Junior College pursuing a degree in accounting. After three semesters, he could no longer afford tuition and, instead, went to work full time. Among other jobs, he worked for the U.S. Treasury Department and then for a liquid propane (LP) gas corporation before starting his own LP gas company, Empire Gas Corporation, in 1963. Empire Gas rapidly became one of the largest retail LP gas distributors in the United States and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
After selling Empire Gas in 1996, Mr. Plaster founded Evergreen Investments, LLC, which invests in numerous enterprises. Mr. Plaster was co-founder and active supporter of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) and was a member of their Executive Board until the time of his death in 2008. Mr. Plaster believed in hard work and in the free enterprise system that gave him the opportunity to become successful.
Mr. Plaster was awarded an honorary doctorate in Business Administration from Southwest Baptist University and an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Missouri Southern State University, formerly Joplin Junior College. Mr. Plaster understood that hard work is the key to success and that the effectiveness of hard work is multiplied by having a good education. 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.