Jack Wells ’77
At age 15, Jack Wells ’77 was just starting his first job at The Hermitage long-term care facility on West Parrish Avenue in Owensboro. He made $1.25 an hour.
As an adult, an entrepreneur and alumnus of Kentucky Wesleyan College, he bought The Hermitage and has owned many other similar facilities. At one point, he owned the largest long-term care company in Kentucky, which had more than 3,500 employees. Today, he owns the Canteen franchise for most of Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana, including Owensboro, Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Louisville and Evansville. The franchise is also growing, with 650 employees and a recent expansion into the Indiana cities of New Albany, Clarksville and Columbus and the Southern Ohio cities of Cincinnati and Dayton.
He has owned retail centers, medical, pharmaceutical and respiratory distribution companies, and properties in Florida and the Dominican Republic. Additionally, he and local partner Matt Hayden own Riverfront JAM LLC, which was involved in the development of the new Holiday Inn hotel downtown and owns the newly constructed Boardwalk Corporate Center.
The list goes on, but Wells said it all started here, with family and community.
“I’m from Owensboro. I grew up with not a lot of money, not a lot of anything,” Wells said. “Anything I’ve achieved is certainly a blessing to me and my family. My father always said, ‘Every tub sits on its own bottom.’ That means you own what you are.”
Wells sits on the board of trustees, which he previously chaired, at Kentucky Wesleyan College. He also has chaired the boards of the Elizabeth Munday Senior Center and Hospice and Palliative Care of the Ohio Valley, and he sat on the boards of Girls, Inc., the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce and Republic Bank & Trust. He also currently serves on the boards of Owensboro Health and Independence Bank.
“I love Owensboro. It’s been good to me,” Wells said. “I try to be choosy with my time and resources. I want to do my best for the citizens of Owensboro.”
Part of being choosy means having a role in where Wesleyan goes, and Wells said he is very optimistic about the school’s future.
“I feel very good about the college,” Wells said. “Private colleges are on the downswing, in general, but we are bucking that trend.”
The revitalization of Owensboro, Wells said, is something Wesleyan is a part of and both the school and Owensboro will benefit by working together.
“Kentucky Wesleyan is Owensboro’s college, so I think it’s a good direction for Wesleyan and for Owensboro. The city is going through a revitalization. The whole city feels it, and so does Wesleyan,” Wells said. “Wesleyan is in the midst of a revitalization, too, both of the campus and its students. If we can continue to grow our enrollment, we can have 1,000 students on campus in four years.”
Wells said President Darrell is a huge asset for the college. “He is providing clear direction for recruitment, retention and fundraising. And he is tremendously passionate about our students and their futures. What he is doing is from the heart. If you have been around him very long, you know that.”
Wells said everyone on campus, including faculty, staff and students, can be a part of the renaissance of both the school and city. It just takes the drive to do so.
“I think we have the opportunity to do something great,” Wells said. “As chairman I always said there are so many ways we can become involved. Pick a passion, and do it for Wesleyan.”
And Wells said though travel and business keep him on the go, he always ends up coming home to the city that raised him.
“I’m a lifelong resident, and I intend to stay in Owensboro. I travel a lot but it will always be home, and I always intend to be part of Kentucky Wesleyan College, its direction, its enhancement and programs for students.”