Jay H. Baker, W'56
Chairman; Jay H. Baker Retailing Center
Former President and Director; Kohl's Corporation

Speakers >> Biography

Jay Baker studied management and marketing as an undergraduate, at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and graduated in 1956.

From 1956 to 1958 he served in the U.S. Army, becoming a sharpshooter.  In 1959, he completed the Macy’s Training Program, and went on to work in buying and management positions through 1971, after which he worked Ohrbach’s as a Divisional Merchandising Manager and assistant to the president until 1975, at which time he left Ohrbach’s to go to Famous Barr, where he was a General Merchandise Manager.
From 1977 to 1986, Mr. Baker worked for BATUS Retail, in various positions including General Merchandise Manager, and Director of Stores, for Sak’s Fifth Avenue.  He was the President and Chairman of Thimbles, and later became the Chairman for the corporate buying office, for BATUS Retail.

In 1986, Mr. Baker went to Kohl’s from BATUS, becoming the new President of Kohl’s, working with the CEO, William Kellogg, and Executive Vice President, John Herma.  Along with outside investors, Mr. Baker together with his partners led a management buyout of Kohl’s from BATUS.  Mr. Baker was the lead merchant, and under his leadership, the company grew from 40 stores, to 350 stores, with the revenue growing from $280 million, into a $6 billion plus corporation before he retired in 2000, promoting Mr. Kevin Mansell to President, and holds the position of Chairman today.

Kohl’s today is in 49 states, and has about 1127 stores, doing almost 19.0 billion dollars in sales annually.
Mr. Baker strongly believes in education and in the future of the retail industry.  Soon after his retirement, he became very involved with FIT, the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where he, and his wife Patty gave a gift of $10 million, which has helped to build new buildings, renovate existing space, and provides 40 scholarships a year to deserving students.  In appreciation, FIT has named its business school, the Patty and Jay Baker School of Business and Technology.  In 2002, Mr. Baker received an honorary doctorate from FIT at its commencement exercises at Radio City Music Hall.

At his alma mater, the Wharton School, Dr. Baker started the Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative, where undergraduate students can study Retail Management to become future leaders in the retail industry.  In conjunction with this program, there is The Baker’s Dozen, where Jay and Patty provide13 yearly scholarships to deserving students from around the world for undergraduate work at the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School.   With the success of the program, and very generous gifts from Jay and Patty, the Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative is now the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center, making it the largest Retailing Center in America, where Dr. Baker is the Chairman.  The BRC will support curriculum development, industry outreach and cutting-edge research, and programs will be accessible to both graduate and undergraduate students.  Among the 50 members on the BRC’s board are Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren, and Roger Farah, COO and President of Polo Ralph Lauren.

Dr. Baker sits on several other boards including FIT’s Board of Trustee’s, and is also the Chairman of the Educational Foundation.  He is on the Wharton Overseers Board, at the University of Pennsylvania, and he is a Trustee of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and will be Chairman of the Foundation by mid 2012.
In Naples Florida, where he and Patty live, he is the Chairman of The Patty & Jay Baker Naples Museum of Art and is a Trustee of the Naples Philharmonic.   Dr. Baker is also one of the owners of the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs, a Single A, Tampa Bay baseball team, and sits on its Board of Directors.

His family consists of his loving and charming wife, Patty, his son, Stephen; daughter-in-law,  Dr. Nadine Chang, their daughter, Zoe; his daughter Stephanie Ribera; son-in-law Chris, and grand-children, Jay and Jessie.  Kismet is their adorable four-legged daughter.

Dr. Baker has many passions, which include collecting baseball memorabilia, watching the New York Yankees, the NY Jets, traveling, and art.  He also enjoys reading, movies, theater, music, walking, working out and problem-solving.

© 2011 The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. All Rights Reserved.

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