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Local News

USF renames downtown Joliet building after donor

Student leave new St. Bonaventure Hall at the University of St. Francis' downtown Joliet campus in October. The university converted the old Mode Theater to an academic building, and it is being renamed after a donation has been made to the university.
Student leave new St. Bonaventure Hall at the University of St. Francis' downtown Joliet campus in October. The university converted the old Mode Theater to an academic building, and it is being renamed after a donation has been made to the university.

JOLIET – The University of St. Francis will rename one of its downtown locations after receiving a six-figure donation.

The former Mode theater building – renovated into a new USF building last year – will be named the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center, following a donation gift from the Robert W. Plaster Foundation.

USF Spokeswoman Nancy Poehlman declined to reveal the amount of the donation.

USF officials said the building is named in honor of Plaster, a philanthropist and entrepreneur who led his own start-up business, Empire Gas Corporation in 1963. Empire Gas became one of the largest retail LP gas distributors in the U.S.

“The educational experience of USF students is very much aligned with the values of Robert W. Plaster. As Mr. Plaster understood and valued hard work and education as the key to success, so too do [USF] students and faculty,” USF President Arvid Johnson said in a news release from the university. 

The Robert W. Plaster Foundation is based in Lebanon, Missouri. The foundation’s mission is to promote “expanded educational opportunities, pride in America and belief in the free enterprise system,” to benefit youth through capital projects, according to its website. 

Dolly Clement, Plaster’s daughter and the foundation’s executive director, said her father wanted to open educational opportunities for young people.

“[The foundation] is dedicated to helping students by funding projects for colleges and universities, such as this University of St. Francis enterprise, the former Mode Theater Building, now a state-of-the-art learning environment,” she said in the news release. 

The foundation also gave a seven-figure gift to Ozarks Technical Community College in Missouri that led to the creation of the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center in 2011.

USF opened the former Mode Theater building in August after renovating it for $2.7 million. The 18,000-square foot building, at 16-18 W. Van Buren St., was donated to USF by BMO Harris Bank.

Several university programs and the College of Arts & Science are located at the building. 

The building also includes classrooms, mock trial courtrooms, study and leisure space, computer labs and offices. It also houses a business incubator that will support undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship degree programs, USF officials said. 

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