TAMPA, Fla., March 15, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Nathan M. Bisk, who over the span of four decades built his company into a global leader in online education that helped put college within reach for countless learners, died March 6.
Bisk was 76 and had been battling cancer in the same way he lived his life and ran his namesake company: tenaciously, with faith and surrounded by the family he cherished.
"My father's determination, vision, brilliant mind and tremendous work ethic are the foundation of Bisk," said his son, Michael Bisk, who took the reins as the Tampa, Fla.-based company's chief executive officer in November 2016. "He leaves behind a pioneering education company that only he could have built. We will all honor his legacy by working with dedication, passion and purpose to continue his vision."
Born into a close-knit family in Newark, N.J., in 1940, Nathan Bisk early on displayed the tenacity for self-improvement that would come to define his career as an entrepreneur and business owner. The Bachelor of Arts in Accounting he earned from Franklin & Marshall College meant that, along with his sister, Irene, he was the first in his family to graduate college.
Through the 1960s, Bisk, who also served in the National Guard, built his professional résumé as a member of the auditing staff at major firms such as Ernst & Young, S.D. Leidersdorf & Co., and Arthur Andersen. He would eventually join Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, where he specialized in sales, and mergers and acquisitions.
At Merrill Lynch, Bisk again demonstrated his continuous drive, graduating from the firm's exclusive two-year Executive Management Program.
In 1971, he moved from New York to Gainesville, Florida, to earn his law degree at the University of Florida. While attending law school, he had the idea that would ultimately be the start of his company. Like many entrepreneurial success stories, it began with a need.
In preparing for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, Bisk found there was little access to effective test prep materials. So, in 1971, with just a few blank audio cassettes, he founded Bisk Education to offer exam prep via recorded lectures and textbooks. In the beginning, Bisk taught most of the courses himself.
As the company grew, its distance learning offerings evolved from audio cassettes to video cassettes to computer software and, eventually, to online learning. In 1987, Bisk moved its headquarters to Tampa.
"We had a very successful business but this was not enough for Nathan," said Andy Titen, who worked with Bisk for more than 30 years and has held several executive positions at the company.
"Nathan dreamed big and wanted us to become a great company that would leave its mark on the world. He came up with the idea to convert ground-based college programs into self-study degree programs that would be marketed to working adults," Titen recalled. "It was the early 1990s then and people thought that this was a preposterous idea that would never work. However, Nathan was a visionary and knew that this idea would work no matter what other people said."
In the mid-1990s, Bisk partnered with Regis University to launch one of the first fully online MBA programs in the United States.
Soon, Bisk Education was blazing a trail in developing internet-based, instructor-led online programs for regionally accredited and nationally ranked universities nationwide. The company harnessed evolving technology to provide 24/7 access to undergraduate and graduate degree programs and professional certificate programs.
"Our intent is to provide people with an education and give people the American Dream," Nathan Bisk once told his alma mater Franklin & Marshall College.
Today, the company is recognized as the nation's leading provider of online program management services, with more than 750 employees at its offices in Tampa and Orlando. Bisk has facilitated more than 1 million enrollments for university partners including Villanova, Notre Dame, Florida Tech, Jacksonville University, New England College and Michigan State.
In 2009, Nathan Bisk presented Florida Tech with a $5 million gift to support its College of Business, which was named in his honor. Bisk also served on Florida Tech's Board of Trustees for almost eight years, a role now held by his son.
"I'm not sure which was more impressive with Nathan: his peerless vision to enhance the power and reach of education through technology, or his significant generosity," Florida Tech President T. Dwayne McCay said. "Though his impact at Florida Tech remains strong, Nathan will be sorely missed."
"My father changed thousands of lives by giving people the opportunity to earn a college degree online," said his daughter, Alison Bisk, the company's vice president and corporate counsel. "This will be his lasting legacy and is a testament to the enduring impact he will have on the world."
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Founded in 1971, Bisk partners with leading universities and organizations to deliver online degree and certificate programs to learners around the world. For the last 20 years, Bisk's online program management services have helped universities and corporations expand their institutional reach and deliver quality programs at scale. Bisk has facilitated more than 1 million enrollments for clients including Villanova, Notre Dame and Michigan State. Bisk is headquartered in Tampa, Florida, with more than 750 employees. Learn more at Bisk.com.
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