Lifetime Achievement Award
William H. McEssy, Arts ’61, Law ’64
Lake Forest, Ill.
Asked if there is a book he would recommend to a young professional in his field, Bill quips, “Yes, but my book isn’t finished yet.” It’s a safe bet that any tome penned by this tremendously successful entrepreneur and devoted Catholic philanthropist would be quite a page-turner.
Bill is the chairman and CEO of McEssy Investment Co., which attained distinction as one of the largest McDonald’s franchisees in the country with 47 restaurants in Illinois and Wisconsin. Today, McEssy continues to operate numerous McDonald’s restaurants, many of them top producers for the fast-food chain.
The former Fond du Lac, Wis.-based family practice lawyer got involved in McDonald’s franchising through a friend, with whom he partnered before moving to the Chicago area and establishing McEssy Co. Bill has represented franchisees as president and director of the McDonald’s Restaurants–Chicago Region and was awarded the Golden Arch Award, the highest recognition from McDonald’s for franchise owners.
“My legal background was instrumental in my entrepreneurship and in growing my involvement with McDonald’s,” Bill says, adding that his law school education taught him to solve problems, a key component in his success. Bill has served on the Law School’s advisory board and been involved in the school’s fundraising efforts, including those for Eckstein Hall.
An active philanthropist, Bill and his wife, Lois (LaMantia) McEssy, Arts ’62, have long supported the work of the Archdiocese of Chicago and especially the University of Saint Mary of the Lake–Mundelein Seminary, where Bill has been chairman of the board of advisers for 15 years. The couple contributed the lead gift to endow the William H. and Lois J. McEssy Theological Resource Library at Mundelein.
“In my involvement with various boards and committees in leadership positions, my faith is always involved in decisions being made,” Bill says. He cites the late Cardinal Francis George, the eighth Archbishop of Chicago, as the most influential person in his life.
Fun facts: Bill’s other business ventures have included investing in Napa Valley’s Andretti Winery and in the Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, Wis.