SPRINGFIELD — Springfield developer and philanthropist William R. Jester died June 2 in Springfield. He was 61.
Funeral services were held at Butler Funeral Home Chapel in Bolivar on June 5. Burial was in Greenwood Cemetery in Bolivar with full military honors.
Born in Bolivar on Oct. 18, 1948, he was the son of Oby and Nina Jester, who preceded him in death. After graduating from Bolivar High School in 1966, he attended Southwest Baptist University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in speech and debate. He also earned graduate hours at Central Missouri State University and the University of Oklahoma. He married Nancy (Hebbert) Jester in 1975, and the couple had two children. In 2008, he married Brooke (Bennett) Jester.
Jester was a volunteer firefighter with the Bolivar Fire Department for 10 years and served in the Missouri Army National Guard. From 1971 to 1979, he served SBU as vice president for admissions and financial assistance, where he became interested in fundraising. In 1979, he launched a financial consulting firm, Resource Development Inc., that helped raise more than $1.5 billion in capital and endowment projects for a wide range of national and international non-profit organizations, including his alma mater, the American Bible Society and Missouri Baptist Children’s Home, among many others.
In 1989, he expanded into the real estate market and constructed or renovated several Springfield buildings. In addition, he opened Chardonnay restaurant in 2001.
Later, he served SBU as a financial and fundraising consultant for the institution’s Partners in Excellence campaign. “It was the most successful campaign we ever had, raising $64 million,” SBU president Pat Taylor said. “He was a genius at fundraising and had the brightest, most brilliant mind I’ve ever known. He taught me more about fundraising than anyone else.”
Not only will the university miss him, Taylor will as well. “Bill Jester and I had what I called an unmitigated friendship — one that transcended our differences,” Taylor said. “I will miss him. Even after he no longer served as our consultant, if I had a fundraising question, I would call Bill. He was a great friend.”
He also had assisted Windermere Baptist Conference Center. “Our hearts and prayers go out to Bill’s family and we mourn with them in hearing the news of his death. Bill was a great friend of Windermere and we remain extremely grateful for his support and partnership over the past several years,” Windermere president and chief executive officer Dan Bench said.
Jester’s civic and professional involvement led to many awards throughout his life. SBU honored him with a Life Service Award in 1990, and Bolivar High School presented him with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1998. His restaurant also earned several awards. He was nominated for the “Innovator of the Year” award in 2008 by the Springfield Business Journal.
In 2002, SBU named the William R. and Nancy Jester Learning and Performance Center to honor the lead gift that made the facility possible.
He is survived by his wife, Brooke Jester; two daughters, Jennifer Jester of Baltimore, Md., and Cristen Jester of Asheville, N.C.; a brother, Robert Jester and wife, Emilie, of Kansas City; and AFS Exchange “brother” Neville Muir and wife, Lill, of Melbourne, Australia.
The family requests memorials may be made to Muir’s organization, Deaf Ministries International (www.deafmin.org), which serves the deaf community in Asia, Africa and South America, in care of Butler Funeral Home 407 E. Broadway, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.