A new endowment established at Missouri Southern will help pave the way for registered nurses employed by Freeman Health System to continue their professional development with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. 

Through the $100,000 endowment, the Bob & Bea Higgins Nursing Scholarship will create four scholarships per year for RN’s at Freeman working to attain their BSN. 

“I thought there was a viable need for this,” said Higgins, adding that the benefits will extend from the students, to Freeman and the hospital’s patients. 

Higgins said that the university has long been one of what he calls the “three C’s” that are integral to the Joplin area: “There’s the Chamber of Commerce, the city council and a college called Missouri Southern.” 

A Joplin Junior College graduate, WWII Air Force pilot and former Joplin postmaster, Higgins is known for his willingness to step forward and offer service whenever he sees a need within the community. He’s a Kiwanis member, a former board member for the Joplin Family Y and Freeman Health System. He has served as a Cub Scout Master at Irving School, as a member of the Financial Bank Board and helped to raise funds for the Eagles Nest youth center. 

In 1974, he was named Outstanding Alum; in 1990, he was recognized as Joplin’s Citizen of the Year. 

“Bob is a dynamic person … once you meet him, you have made a lifelong friend,” said Paula Baker, president and chief executive officer for Freeman Health System. “It’s interesting that we are in the business of getting people healthy, and Bob’s focus in life has been to make people feel better through his fundraising efforts or other charitable feats. 

“This scholarship is another nod to his focus in service to others.” 

Kevin Greim, Missouri Southern’s associate vice president for development, praised Higgins for his years of service to the university, including fundraising for projects such as the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center and artificial turf at Fred G. Hughes Stadium, and as a past member of the Alumni Board and the Board of Governors. 

“Bob has been an advocate for and a friend of Missouri Southern for decades,” said Greim. “He has lived his life with a spirit of service to his country, his community and his university.  With this scholarship endowment, he is leaving a legacy of generosity that will last forever.” 

The creation of the new endowment allowed Higgins to assist in two areas he has been passionate about throughout his career. 

“Having seen the need to support students at Missouri Southern as well as the professionals working at Freeman, this was an area where I was pleased to be able to help,” he said.