WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Plans by officials at Missouri State University-West Plains to renovate and expand the post office building on Garfield Avenue took a major step forward today, thanks to significant gifts from two families and long-time campus supporters, Mary Hass Sheid, West Plains, and the William R. Hass family, Springfield, and William and Virginia Darr, Springfield. In recognition of the gifts, the facility will be named Hass-Darr Hall.
“This project would not be possible without the significant contributions of Mary Hass Sheid and the William R. Hass family, and Bill and Virginia Darr, all consistent and generous supporters of our campus,” said Missouri State-West Plains Chancellor Drew Bennett. “It is difficult for me to express the importance of these gifts or how much they are appreciated. Ms. Sheid, the Hass family and Mr. and Mrs. Darr are true role models who believe in giving back to support community growth through educational opportunity.”
“It has been the privilege of the Hass family for the past six generations to live in this area with many family, friends, coworkers and neighbors who have encouraged and supported us over the years with our education and our careers,” Sheid said. “The desire for continued improvement of this area through education, jobs and infrastructure to help this area thrive is important to our family. We are excited for all of the uses the current administration, faculty and staff have planned for Hass-Darr Hall. We know this facility will continue to enhance the collegiate experience for our area students. I can say as a family we are beyond thrilled to be a part of this important and innovative growth for the Missouri State-West Plains campus. I want to personally thank Drew Bennett, (Missouri State University System President) Clif Smart, the staff and the many unsung heroes along the way who have worked so hard to see this project to completion.”
“In appreciation of the education we received at Missouri State University, we believe that giving back by means of scholarships and improved facilities is the right thing to do,” said the Darrs. “We are honored to share the name of the new Hass-Darr Hall with Mary Hass Sheid, a long-time friend who served on the Missouri State University Board of Governors with Bill. We are especially pleased of the success of the honors program begun under the guidance of Dennis Lancaster and the lasting effect it has on the students. We are honored to help, as we know it will make a difference.”
This summer, university officials received the green light for their plans to renovate and expand Hass-Darr Hall when Missouri legislators passed a bonding package and Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation authorizing approximately $300 million to fund repairs and renovations to public properties around the state. Included in that package was $1.5 million in funding for the post office building, which will soon be vacated by the U.S. Postal Service so that its operations can be relocated to 212 Washington Ave.
Bennett anticipates the total cost of the Hass-Darr Hall project will be $4.5 to $5 million, which will be covered with a combination of bonding, donor and university reserve funds. Once completed, the facility will house the Carol Silvey Student Union, William and Virginia Darr Honors Program, tutoring services, the admissions office and other much needed classroom and administrative office space that will enhance student learning and academic success, Bennett said.
“The financial gifts offered by Ms. Sheid, the Hass family, and Mr. and Mrs. Darr will be used to renovate the current structure and construct an addition that will double the size of the building to provide space for the Carol Silvey Student Union, as well as the Drago College Store and admissions office, both of which will be relocated from their current locations to Hass-Darr Hall,” Bennett said.
Hass-Darr Hall is the latest in a long line of campus projects and initiatives supported by Sheid and the Darrs over the years. Sheid, who served on the Missouri State University Board of Governors from 2002-2011 and is currently on the Missouri State University Foundation Board of Trustees, has been a regular contributor to the campus’ annual fund since 2007. She has been a member of the Grizzly Booster Club since 1993 and has sponsored numerous basketball and volleyball tournaments and games, and from 2004-2010, she was a member of the Philanthropic Women for Education, a group that supports the university in its mission by expanding the involvement of women as philanthropists.
Ms. Sheid, a native of Thayer and owner of Physical Therapy Specialists Clinics in West Plains and Mountain Grove, also has donated funds to furnish and equip the Mindy Lahey Hughston Room in Looney Hall to serve as a classroom and technology center for nursing students to observe activities in the health simulation laboratory, and she contributed funds toward the renovation of Shannon Hall in Mountain Grove. Other contributions have gone toward the Wendell Bailey Endowment for Entrepreneurship and the Donna Jones Endowed Professorship of Nursing. In addition, she has helped establish several scholarships, including the Honorable William Hass Scholarship Endowment, the Ariane Brooks/Physical Therapy Specialists Clinic Grizzly Scholarship, the Physicians, Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners Grizzly Scholarship, and the Mary H. Sheid Student Ambassador Book Scholarship Endowment, the latter of which was established in her honor by family and friends.
Natives of Reynolds County, William and Virginia (Ralls) Darr also have made significant contributions to Missouri State-West Plains through the years. They funded construction and placement of the 10-foot Grizzly Statue between Looney Hall and the Garnett Library in 2001, and in 2004, they supported the renovation of Shannon Hall in Mountain Grove by funding carpeting and its installation, and they provided funds for a book collection for the Barbe Library at that facility. In 2006, they established an endowment to support Missouri State-West Plains’ honors program that now bears their name, in 2007 they added funds to that endowment to support study abroad opportunities for honors students, and in 2011 and 2012 they made contributions toward the William and Virginia Darr Honors Professorship.
In addition to these projects, the Darrs have established several scholarships for Missouri State-West Plains students, including the Darr Scholar Award, the Doug Darr Community Leadership Scholarship, the William and Virginia Darr Leadership Scholarship and the Lillian Meade Darr Endowed Leadership Scholarship. They also established the Bill and Virginia Ralls Darr Scholarship for students who graduate from Southern Reynolds County R-2 High School in Ellington.
William Darr, founder and CEO of American Dehydrated Foods Inc., International Dehydrated Foods and Food Ingredient Technology Company, served on the Missouri State University Board of Governors from 1999-2005 and the Missouri State University Foundation Board of Trustees from 1995-1999. He was the chair of the board of trustees from 1997-98.
Bennett pointed out one of the gifts received for the post office project includes a $250,000 matching opportunity for donors. Anyone interested in that opportunity can contact the university’s development office at 417-255-7240 or WPDevelopment@MissouriState.edu.