13:23 PM

Perry E. “Bill” Esping Made His Mark on a Growing University

By Bill Wax

Builders of Bellevue University: Across the Years and Generations

In celebration of Bellevue University’s 50th Anniversary, we take time to recognize some of the many individuals and organizations that have helped to build the University into Nebraska’s largest private college or university. A spirit of entrepreneurship made the late Perry E. “Bill” Esping a prototypical Builder of Bellevue University. His son William P. “Bill” Esping, continues that legacy of support and entrepreneurship.”


Perry E. “Bill” Esping Made His Mark on a Growing University

Bill EspingPerry E. “Bill” Esping joined Bellevue College’s Board of Directors in 1980. One of several new directors recruited from the greater Omaha area to broaden the College’s support base, Esping brought business acumen and a strong entrepreneurial track record—valuable assets for a young college seeking to develop new program offerings to grow enrollment.

Esping is best known in business circles as the principal founder of First Data Resources of Omaha. A true entrepreneur, he left IBM in 1968 to manage a charge-card system called Mid-America Bancard Association, a regional bank cooperative. In 1970, he and several colleagues asked member banks for permission to launch their own company, First Data Resources, which was the first company to process both VISA (then called BankAmericard) and Master Card (formerly Master Charge) transactions. The company broke even in its first year and within a decade reached $50 million in annual income and 2,000 employees. It was purchased by American Express Co. of New York in 1980. Now headquartered in Atlanta, First Data Resources is a business unit of First Data Corporation, a separately traded company and the largest credit card processor in the world.

Esping served on the Bellevue University Board of Directors from 1980 to 1988 and was one of three influential directors involved in the search committee which hired John B. Muller as the third president of Bellevue University in 1985.  A strong believer and advocate for free enterprise, he was an early supporter of the Esping Center for Free Enterprise at Bellevue University, which was later renamed the Entrepreneurial Leadership Center, publishing the Bottom Line newsletter. He also was a founding member of the Bellevue University Foundation Board.

After selling First Data Resources, Esping launched BRC Holdings, a Dallas-based information technology services and data processing company. In 1994, the family established the Esping Family Foundation, which is philosophically rooted in free-enterprise and strives “to help others help themselves by supporting active programs with strong leadership and entrepreneurial activity.” At the time of his death in 1998, he was chairman and CEO of BRC Holdings. In 2001, he was inducted posthumously into the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s Business Hall of Fame.

Perry Esping’s son, William P. Esping, is Managing Director of EFO and joined the Bellevue University Board of Directors in 2001. The Esping family established the Perry E. “Bill” Esping Endowed Scholarship in honor of their father’s involvement in Bellevue University.