Jay Baker, W’56
2016 Joseph Wharton Award for Lifetime Achievement
||Jay Baker, W’56
Former President, Kohl’s
Jay Baker began his retail career at age seven, greeting customers in his mother’s millinery store in Flushing, New York. Today, over half a century later, after stints at Macy’s, Ohrbach’s, the May Corporation and Saks Fifth Avenue, he is hailed by his colleagues as the “merchant’s merchant”. His stellar industry reputation peaked with his triumphant 14-year career at Kohl’s, which began in 1986, with forty stores and $288million in sales, and ended in 2000, when he retired as president with 500 stores, 54,000 employees, and $5 billion in sales.
Dr. Baker studied management and marketing at the Wharton School, and was graduated in 1956, after which he served in the U S Army where he became a sharpshooter. In 1958, he began his retail career with the Macy’s Training Program, and from there he achieved success at the companies he worked with prior to his going to Kohl’s.
Jay received the Doctorate of Humane Letters at FIT in 2002, and in November of 2014, he was awarded Wharton’s Dean’s Medal, the highest honor given by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Having resigned from Kohl’s board several years ago, he currently chairs the Baker Retailing Center, a global retail venue he began at Wharton, and the largest center of its kind. He was also on the Wharton Overseers Board for several years. At present, he is chairman of the Baker Museum of Art in Naples, Florida, where he is also a trustee of Artis—Naples. In addition, he is a Trustee at FIT and chairman of the Foundation Board in NYC, and member and past chairman of the board of the Cal Ripken Sr, Foundation.
In addition to being an avid Yankees memorabilia collector and an art collector, he strongly believes in the arts and education and supports several institutions with scholarships and buildings in his and his wife, Patty’s, names. He is also involved with the Baker Naples Community Hospital, Mt. Sinai and its Baker National Palliative Care Center, the Gulfshore Playhouse, soon to be named after him and his wife, and the Baker Theatre Building at Hunter College in New York City.
In addition to Patty, his family includes their adorable dog, Kismet; son, Stephen; daughter-in-law Dr. Nadine Chang and their children Zoe and Micah and Baby X to arrive in May; and daughter Stephanie Ribera, son-in-law Chris Ribera, and their children, Jay and Jessie.
Jay’s belief is that we all should live our legacy by supporting what we believe in while we’re alive and have a say in how our money is spent and give to charities we believe in.