FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 26, 2012
University Relations & Marketing
JOPLIN, MO (SNS) – Faculty, staff and several students at Missouri Southern State University have fond memories of working with entertainer Andy Williams who passed away Tuesday, Sept. 25 in Branson after a long battle with bladder cancer.
The memories spring from a project in late 2010.
Students in Dr. Scott Cragin’s Marketing Strategy Class were given the opportunity to participate in one of two projects. One addressed Andy Williams’ Moon River Theatre. The other dealt with the Moon River Grill. In all, about a dozen students worked in teams with Andy and his staff to develop marketing plans for the two facilities.
The Branson Chamber of Commerce was also involved.
Stu Dunlop, another teacher in the MSSU School of Business Administration, coordinated the project. Stu Dunlop’s wife Dr. Penny Clayton heads the Accounting program at Drury University. She has been the personal financial consultant for Andy Williams for several years.
Such issues as market size and demand, products in the grill, menus, atmosphere, online versus walk-in sales of tickets and other products and advertising were covered. Ultimately, the students presented the results of their studies in person to Andy Williams.
“He was a very gracious, very kind guy,” Cragin remembers.” He had been around a long time. He was excited to have the young students working with him and was receptive to what they were trying to tell him.”
“The project was important because it was real world” Cragin says. “And we got to work with a celebrity to boot.”
He says the students, at the beginning, were only vaguely aware of Andy’s career which was at its peak in the early 1960s and 1970s.
“But they found out who he was and certainly appreciated his career and accomplishments,” he says. “They were very impressed.”
In October of 2010 a larger group from Missouri Southern attended a show at the Moon River Theatre.
“It was a really good show,” Stu Dunlop recalls. “To the end, he was a consummate entertainer. His show was very professional. His legacy in Branson is that he had one of the first non-country music-based shows that was really successful there. He was definitely ahead of his time in that respect.”
After the show, they went backstage and visited with the longtime entertainer.
“He thanked everyone for coming to the show,” Dunlop recalls. “Each person there has his or her personal memories. He wasn't one to lecture you about show business. He really related with the audiences and with people in general.”
“Working with Andy Williams was an experience of a lifetime,” says Ashley (Shaw) Yeary, one of the students involved. “He was an extraordinary man who accomplished so much and really pioneered the way for non-country entertainers in Branson. I was able to learn some great business practices from him that have been helpful in my career.”
Yeary was in the class that developed the Moon River Theatre marketing plan. She now works for Boyd Metals in Joplin.
Another of the students at the time, Jessica Baker, says she was impressed with Williams on a personal level:
“He was truly a unique man who could light up a theater with charisma and charm. I’m glad I was able to work with him as a student at MSSU,” she says.
Baker worked during an internship to redesign Andy Williams’ web site.
She currently heads the cheerleading at The Flip Shop in Joplin and is a national instructor with the National Conference Association (NCA).
Scott Cragin says Williams’ benefit to Branson, which helped both the city and the entertainer, can’t be underestimated.
“He was a huge draw, particularly for the generation of travelers who come to Branson” Cragin comments. “Entertainers like Andy Williams love the lifestyle in Branson. They can do two shows a day, play golf and do very well financially. Andy brought a lot of revenue to the Branson area.”
MSSU President Dr. Bruce Speck says the Missouri Southern campus joins with the rest of the nation in mourning the entertainer’s death.
“He was one of a kind,” Dr. Speck says. “He was not only a great performer but a great role model for other entertainers and, really, everyone. We’re very proud at Missouri Southern to have had an association with Andy Williams.”
Photo (from left): Dr. Scott Cragin, Ricardo Cardona, Andy Williams, Stu Dunlop, Jessica Baker and Maria Casas-Cordero