William T. Esrey

William T. Esrey, 1961

B.A, Denison University
M.B.A., Harvard University

Citation awarded June, 2011

In 1964, upon completing his formal education, William Esrey joined the Bell System and became president of Empire City Subway Company. From 1970 to 1980, he was on Wall Street becoming a managing director of Dillon Read & Co. Inc.

Bill is an expert and forward thinker in the energy and telecommunications fields. Bill joined Sprint, then called United Telecommunications, in 1980, became president and chief executive officer in 1985, and served in the executive role for 18 years.

Spurred by his prescient vision of the future, he led the effort to fundamentally re-position the company from rural telephone company into an international telecommunications company by entering the long-distance market in 1985 and building the nation’s first all-digital fiber-optic network. In 1994, under Bill’s leadership, Sprint partnered with several cable companies to build the first nationwide wireless personal communications network, Sprint PCS. In 1997, Bill was named one of the top 25 business executives in the world by Business Week.

Upon retirement from Sprint, in 2003, Bill became the chairman of Japan Companies.

Other corporate boards of directors on which Bill has served include: Airvana, Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, Duke Energy Corporation, Exxon Mobil Corp, General Mills, Earthlink, and Everen Capital Corporation. He was chairman of the Business Council, and a member of the Business Roundtable and Trilateral Commission, member of the U.S. Ski and Snowboarding board of directors, and of the Vail Valley Foundation. He also served as director of the Jason Foundation for Education, the NCAA Foundation, the Civic Council of Kansas City, the Kansas City Symphony Foundation and served as a trustee of Pembroke Country Day and the University of Kansas City.

Since 2009, Bill has chaired the board of Houston-based Spectra Energy, one of the largest natural gas infrastructure companies in North America.

At Denison, Bill served on the Board of Trustees twice, from 1970 to 76 and from 1986 to 92. He joined the presidential search committee in 1988 and has volunteered for DART, the Annual Fund, and several of his class reunions.