When then-Missouri Governor Matt Blunt put pen to paper in 2005 at the Plaster Student Union Theater, Missouri State University’s course changed forever.
Blunt signed Senate Bill 98. It authorized Southwest Missouri State University to drop Southwest from its name and become a more prominent part of the higher education system in the state.
Missouri State will honor Blunt, a longtime friend and supporter of the university, with the Bronze Bear award at a fall 2018 commencement ceremony.
“So much of the university’s growth in the last 13 years can be traced back to Governor Blunt’s support for our vision,” President Clifton M. Smart III said. “He understood then and now the value higher education brings to Missouri’s workforce.”
A history of funding support
Blunt’s backing for higher education extended beyond the name change.
He pushed for enhanced financial aid packages during his time as governor and advocated for increased higher education funding. One piece of legislation dedicated $350 million to construct new facilities and start economic development projects on campuses across the state.
For Missouri State, the former governor fought for an operating budget increase of 4.2 percent, or $3.4 million, and helped MSU start its engineering partnership with Missouri S&T.
Blunt is now president of the American Automotive Policy Council. The council is a trade association that represents common public policy and trade interests of FCA US LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Company.
Missouri voters elected Blunt as the state’s 54th governor in 2004. Prior to that, he served in the Missouri House of Representatives and as Secretary of State.
Blunt served 14 years in the Navy and Naval Reserve. He received four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, among other awards while on active duty.
The son of United States Sen. Roy Blunt, Matt earned his bachelor’s degree in history from the U.S. Naval Academy. He resides in Delaplane, Virginia, with his wife Melanie and their two sons, William Branch and Brooks.
Previous Bronze Bear recipients
- 1998 – John Q. Hammons, international developer and philanthropist
- 1999 – David D. Glass, former president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., of Bentonville, Arkansas, and owner of the Kansas City Royals baseball team
- 2000 – Dr. Duane G. Meyer, president emeritus of Missouri State
- 2003 – Virginia and William H. “Bill” Darr, founder and owner of American Dehydrated Foods and related companies, and Springfield philanthropists
- 2004 – Jane and Ken Meyer, owners of Meyer Communications, Inc., and Springfield philanthropists
- 2005 – Dr. John H. Keiser, president emeritus of Missouri State
- 2006 – Thomas G. Strong, nationally-known attorney
- 2007 – The McQueary Family, former owners of a wholesale drug company
- 2008 – The Turner Family, Great Southern Bank
- 2009 – The Pinegar Family, Pinegar Chevrolet
- 2009 – Dr. Michael T. Nietzel, former president of Missouri State
- 2010 – James P. Ferguson, president of the Heart of America Beverage Company
- 2011 – Robert W. Plaster Foundation and the Plaster Family, developers and philanthropists
- 2012 – The Journagan Family, Journagan Construction Company
- 2013 – Dr. Arthur Mallory, former president of Missouri State
- 2014 – The Foster Family, donors and members of the Missouri State Foundation Board of Trustees
- 2015 – Dr. Norm Shealy, longtime friend and contributor
- 2016 – Bobby Allison, donor
- 2017 – Dr. Paul Durham, distinguished professor and expert in orofacial pain and migraines
About the Bronze Bear
The Bronze Bear Award includes a framed resolution and a 45-pound, 18-inch Bronze Bear in an upright position mounted on a base.
Former Missouri State art professor Dr. Jim Hill designed the award in 1998. A 14-foot statue version of the Bronze Bear mounted on a 3-foot concrete base is located just north of Missouri State’s Plaster Student Union.
The university president and administrative council recommends Bronze Bear recipients. The executive committees of the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and Student Government Association support the nominations and the Board of Governors has final approval.