A scholarship fund has been created for a Corbin High School and Eastern Kentucky University graduate who went on to serve in the U.S. Marines and became a successful businessman in the medical supply industry before his untimely death in 1989.
The creation of the Karl Bays scholarship fund was announced last week at a meeting of the Corbin Kiwanis Club.
Bays is a 1951 graduate of Corbin High School where he excelled in football and was a statistician for the Redhound basketball team.
He went to EKU on scholarship and graduated in 1955, bypassing dreams to play in the NFL in order to join the U.S. Marine Corps.
He later completed his MBA at Indiana University, and then became a hospital supply sales representative before becoming President of American Hospital Supply (AHS) in 1970 at age 37.
“Karl is one of our alum who I feel like probably exceeded expectations and succeeded in life beyond his wildest dreams,” said Christine Tuveson, Director of Development for EKU.
“I don’t know that he particularly sought the excellence that was tossed in his direction, but I know he deserved it and he worked hard to earn it,” she added. “Karl is the kind of graduate from EKU we want to remember and we want our students to remember. When there is a scholarship in someone’s name, there’s a opportunity to revisit that history and to hold that memory in a very special way.”
Tuveson said Bays had an inspiring, inclusive leadership style that engendered loyalty among his employees, and respect from his peers.
“He had an enormous following among the people who worked for him because he was evenhanded and fair,” she said. “He was able to inspire them. He worked right alongside them and they were aware of that.”
“At the very base of everything, he was a good man. He was an example of a good man excelling in what people often think of as corrupt corporate America,” Tuveson added.
AHS was later acquired by Baster in 1985 and Bays served as Chairman for nearly two years. He became CEO and Chairman of Institutional Industries in 1987 and orchestrated the sale of the Illinois Central Railroad.
He was a director on the boards of Amoco, Delta Airlines and was a trustee of Duke University. Perhaps most notably, he was honored with the prestigious Horatio Alger Award — an award given every year to honor business or civic leaders who overcome adversity or humble beginnings to succeed and make positive contributions to society.
Bays died at the age of only 55 in 1989 of a heart attack.
Corbin resident Bob Terrell, a friend of Karl Bays who served in the same U.S. Marine Corps. Unit, said he hopes that the scholarship isn’t the end, but that it evolves into more.
“I’m working with EKU to develop a leadership class about Karl Bays,” Terrell said. “I also hope this results in other things for Corbin, like jobs and opportunities.”
Jack Payne, President and owner of JP Medical LLC, a company that focuses on “channel development for medical and surgical manufacturing firms,” was in town last week for the announcement of the scholarship.
Payne was instrumental in helping establish a scholarship fund in Bays’ name at Indiana University. Tuveson said that fund collected over $200,000. Terrell said Payne has shown interest in Corbin for possible medical training.
Terrell said Bays hired Payne years ago.
Once it reaches the $10,000, Tuveson said the Karl Bays Scholarship would become and endowment that could then continue in perpetuity. Both she and Terrell said they hope it can be offered to students for the upcoming fall semester.
Terrell said a meeting would be held locally over the summer to determine the criteria for recipients of the scholarship.