It would be appropriate that The Arena be renamed the “Karl Bays Memorial Center.” Karl and his wife, Billie Joan White, graduated from Corbin High School in 1951. Karl and Billie were outstanding students.
His father was a conductor on the L & N Railroad and his family moved from Loyal to Corbin when Karl was 11. Karl played on Corbin’s State Championship runner-up football team as a junior, and went to EKU on a football scholarship and was a teammate with Corbin buddies Roy Kidd and Carl Oakley. Bays and Oakley were starting tackles three years and EKU won the Tangerine Bowl. He was in the high school choir, was a basketball team statistician, played on the baseball team, was a charter member/officer in Corbin’s first Key Club in 1950, and was an officer in the Duke’s Club. He had a lead role in his senior class play. His sister, Alta Faye Bonza, also graduated from Corbin High School and she and her family reside in Corbin.
While at Eastern, he was Commanding Officer of the Army ROTC and was the first EKU football player drafted in the NFL. He volunteered and served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. After his service in the Marines, he earned his MBA in Business at Indiana University.
Karl then began a remarkable career at American Hospital Supply Corporation and, at age 39, became president of this respected International Company in Evanston, Ill. Four years later Karl was selected to replace retiring founder Foster McGaw as chairman and CEO. Karl supported many EKU programs and he and Dr. Boswell, president of Cumberland College worked together to gain Mr. McGaw’s approval to fund and build the McGaw Center at Cumberland.
American Hospital Supply merged with Baxter Travenol in 1985 and for two years he served as chairman. He then became Chairman and CEO of Institutional Industries and soon changed its name to Whitman Corporation. It was in the capacity as CEO this son of a railroad conductor on the L & N made the decision to sell the Illinois Central Railroad. Karl died in 1989 at age 55.
1. How many persons from this Region were inducted in the Medical Industry Hall of Fame? Karl Bays.
2. How many persons from this Region received the acclaimed Horatio Alger Award? Karl Bays.
3. How many persons from this Region served on the Duke University Board? Karl Bays.
4. How many persons from this Region served on the Board of Directors of American Hospital Supply, Baxter-Travenol, Whitman Corp., AMOCO Oil, and Delta Airlines? Karl Bays.
5. How many persons from this area won the Wall Street Journal’s Medical Industry’s CEO of the Year award five times? Karl Bays did all these things and many more.
Karl is an example that common Eastern Kentucky people can achieve uncommon goals. This Harlan County born boy grew up in Corbin; he was educated at EKU and he climbed to the top of the mountain of International Business. He was one of the key leaders in the Medical Industry who pioneered medical services and equipment to Asia and was a leader for America. We should always remember Karl Bays!
Bob Terrell, Corbin