Entrepreneur and Philanthropist Richard P. Essey
Richard P. (“Dick”) Essey died peacefully on Friday, April 10 in his sleep at his home in San Francisco of natural causes. He was 97.
Dick Essey was born in Cleveland, Ohio on Feb 5, 1923 to Lenore and Jack Essey. Following the death of his father, the family moved to New York City, where he attended George Washington High School.
After graduation, Essey enlisted in the US Air Force where he was responsible for personnel logistics for the assembly of B-52 bombers and other aircraft for the war effort. Following his military service, he attended NYU where he received both his BS and MBA degrees and met his wife Sheila at a USO reception in NYC.
Essey began his career in human resources, first in retail at Abraham and Straus and then in advertising at Grey and Benton and Bowles. In 1962, he had the vision to start a temporary staffing company which he named TemPositions, to more flexibly address the needs he had identified working in large companies. Essey was an original pioneer of the temporary staffing industry and grew TemPositions into a large regional firm providing a full range of office support staffing and later, health care staffing.
He was extremely proud of the company’s ability to provide jobs for those who needed them. Over the years, through multiple offices in the San Francisco Bay and NY Tri-State areas, the firm has found employment for over 250,000 people. In 1990, he passed on leadership to his son.
He was one of the early founders of the American Staffing Association and helped establish the New York chapter. He was elected president of both organizations. For his important contributions, the American Staffing Association named him the first inductee in the Staffing Industry Hall of Fame. Essey also worked with the California Staffing Professionals trade association and endowed the annual Essey Award for the individual contributing most to the community in the past year.
Essey was selected as Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young and Inc. Magazine in the field of Human Resources. His company was awarded the Excellence in Business award by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
Essey focused much of his life around helping others. A strong believer in the advantages of a college education, he awarded an annual scholarship to Goucher College, his wife’s alma mater, for many years and avidly followed the success of his scholarship recipients. He established a similar program at the NYU Stern School of Business and endowed the TemPositions Career Resource Center at NYU, providing career services for graduating students for over a decade.
Essey and his wife Sheila were keenly interested in the arts and he sat on the board of Trustees of the Museum of Craft and Folk Art and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco where he endowed the Sheila L. and Richard P. Essey Gallery at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor.
When his wife Sheila was diagnosed with ALS in 1995, he was struck by the fact that there was no organization to help caregivers find resources in the Bay area, nor a vehicle to raise money for research. He formed the Bay Area chapter of the ALS association (now renamed the Golden West Chapter) and housed the staff in his company’s offices in San Francisco. Today, the chapter is one of the largest in the ALSA network.
Taking care of his wife for the 10 years she suffered from ALS, he recognized how immensely challenging the experience was for the caregiver. Working with the Caregivers Alliance in San Francisco, he created an annual “retreat” for family caregivers, providing replacement care while they enjoyed a group hotel weekend away where they could enjoy spa services and share support with one another.
Essey also sat on the board of the American Academy of Neurology Foundation (now renamed the American Brain Foundation), where he helped advance fundraising for brain disease research.
One of the accomplishments of which he was most proud was creating the Sheila Essey Award for ALS research, annually awarding a $50,000 prize to the top research scientist in the field of ALS. The award is widely publicized and shared in the international neurological community so that others can build on the research. There have been 27 international recipients to date, all contributing critically important discoveries towards finding treatments and a cure.
Essey also founded the Essey Community Service Internship Program, which placed high school students in non-profit organizations during the summer, at no cost to the organizations. He also established the Essey Meal Delivery Program for disabled individuals unable to prepare and shop for food.
For his contributions to the community, he received citations from the Mayor of San Francisco and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
He was a loving and devoted father, grandfather, and husband. Essey is survived by his son James Essey, daughter Tina Mikkelsen, his daughter-in-law Nina Zakin, son-in-law Trygve Mikkelsen and three grandchildren: Alexandra Essey, Anders Mikkelsen and Britt Mikkelsen. Funeral services will be private.
Contributions may be made to the Golden West Chapter of the ALS Association and the American Brain Foundation in his memory.