Major Grant Supports New Home for NGU Business Programs
Posted on: January 5, 2024
Tigerville, SC (January 5, 2024) A major grant from the Robert W. Plaster Foundation to North Greenville University’s capital campaign for the transformation of historic Donnan Administration Building will yield a new name for the home of the College of Business and Entrepreneurship, NGU President Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr., announced on January 5. The expanded and completely renovated 20,000-square-foot building will be named the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center, housing the College of Business & Entrepreneurship, the Donald E. Ward Administrative Suite, and the Murphree C. Donnan Commons, which preserves and articulates the legacy of NGU’s longest-serving president.
The grant was approved by the Lebanon, Missouri-based foundation’s board of directors earlier this fall, after a site visit by the foundation’s executive director.
With a stated mission to “expand educational access and promote the virtues of the American free enterprise system through named capital projects,” the Robert W. Plaster Foundation has supported capital projects at more than 20 colleges and universities. The foundation has mainly worked with institutions in the Midwest. NGU is the first South Carolina university to receive a grant from the foundation.
Plaster founded Empire Gas Corporation in 1963. It was one of the largest retail propane distributors in this country when he sold the company in 1996. The Robert W. Plaster Foundation was created in 1983, with a “primary goal of helping academic institutions provide affordable college education to those ambitious young students who might not otherwise be able to afford it.”
NGU officials said the new vision for the facility, which originally opened in 1955, reflects continued growth for a university which grew from its grade school roots under the leadership of Dr. Murphree C. Donnan, who served as North Greenville Academy principal from 1928-34, and president of North Greenville Junior College from 1934-62.
“President Donnan was an extraordinary educator who gave this institution a staggering 34 years of uninterrupted leadership,” said President Fant. “He cast a vision for North Greenville that reached far beyond the Foothills. Mr. Plaster was a bold entrepreneur who impacted the world of business far beyond his Midwestern roots. This new partnership with the Plaster Foundation weaves together the passions of both men. I can imagine Dr. Donnan and Mr. Plaster having a lively conversation about the value of hard work, courageous ethics, and the fruit of human flourishing in all sectors of society. This grant allows us to move forward with enhanced facilities and a shared commitment to expanding our academic impact in the business world. The Plaster Center provides NGU with ‘Class A’ facilities for our ‘Grade A’ business programs.”
“Robert W. Plaster believed in God, country, hard work, and the free enterprise system,” said Jason Hannasch, the foundation’s executive director. “His many successes can be attributed to his underlying belief in the philosophy that ‘Can’t Never Could.’”
The foundation’s board has focused on grants to institutions which are committed to education supporting the American Free Enterprise System. According to the foundation’s website, Plaster “knew that success comes through hard work and that the effectiveness of hard work is multiplied by having a good education.”
“Our commitment to teaching students the virtues of the American Free Enterprise System and the opportunities afforded by free markets makes our relationship with the foundation one which should mutually benefit our organizations,” said Dr. John Duncan, dean of the College of Business and Entrepreneurship. “Our strong desire is to glorify God by transforming students into innovative thinkers and entrepreneurial problem-solvers who serve as agent of human flourishing. The foundation’s partnership will bolster our ability to excel in this work.”
The College of Business and Entrepreneurship is NGU’s largest academic unit, with more than 500 students enrolled in its bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. The Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center will provide five high-tech classrooms, comfortable faculty offices, and two high-profile collaboration rooms for the college, accounting for approximately 75 percent of the space in the facility.
NGU’s senior administrative leaders will move into the Ward Executive Suite, on the north side of the upper level of the building, with President Fant’s office overlooking the historic quad and the expansive mountain views from Glassy to Packs Mountains. Other offices include those of the executive vice president, provost/dean of the university faculty, chief financial officer, and university general counsel, allowing senior officials to be housed in the same suite.
The Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center also will yield new meeting areas for NGU students, with completion of an enlarged gathering space in the middle of the ground floor. Named for North Greenville’s first president, Donnan Commons will provide students with a brightly lit, expanded area to visit and study, as well as a heritage center that preserves the distinctive, restored historical mural that has marked the building’s entrance since its construction.