UNMC History 101 - The reach of Eugene Eppley's generosity

Eugene C. Eppley's name is all over the city of Omaha and UNMC is no exception.

His name adorns campus structures and institutions such as:

  • The Eppley Cancer Institute building;
  • Eppley Science Hall; and
  • The UNMC Eppley Cancer Center.

picture disc.
Eugene C. Eppley
Eppley single-handedly built one of the most successful hotel empires, which by the 1950s was the largest privately owned hotel chain in the U.S.

"(Eppley) was acquisitive and altruistic, proud and modest, but beneath it all humble and compassionate," wrote Eppley's biographer, Harl Dalstrom, professor emeritus of history at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO). "He taught and inspired and disciplined . . . but exacted more of himself than any other. He was an organizer, leader, teacher, fighter, talker and giver."

The start of an empire

Born in 1884, in Akron, Ohio, Eppley bought his first property, the McKinley Hotel in Canton, Ohio at the age of 19. In 1917, he formed the Eppley Hotel Company, which at its peak in the 1950s owned more than 20 hotels in six states:

  • Nebraska;
  • Iowa;
  • South Dakota;
  • Missouri;
  • Pennsylvania; and
  • Kentucky.

Eppley sold the company to Sheraton Hotels in 1956 for $30 million (about $250 million in 2012 dollars).

Home in Omaha

After he purchased the Hotel Fontenelle in Omaha in 1920, Eppley lived at his flagship property until his death in 1958. The upscale Hotel Fontenelle at 18th and Douglas streets was demolished in 1983.

Eppley was a renowned philanthropist who gave primarily to educational, civic, child welfare, and medical research causes across the Midwest, especially in Omaha.

A philanthropic leader

Beginning in 1949, the Eugene C. Eppley Foundation was a leading benefactor for a number of charities and institutions, providing more than $25 million in support to various organizations (about $150 million in 2012 dollars).

Other Omaha buildings and facilities named after Eppley include:

  • Eppley Administration Building (the former library) at UNO;
  • Eppley College of Business Administration at Creighton University;
  • Eppley Recreation Center at the Omaha Home for Boys;
  • Eppley Boys Club;
  • Eppley Salvation Army Camp;
  • Eppley Pachyderm Hill at the Henry Doorly Zoo; and
  • Eppley Airfield.


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