Baptist family mourns the loss of third president and CEO

Joseph H. Powell, president and CEO of Baptist Memorial Health Care from 1980-1994, died yesterday evening. He was 86.

A native of Etowah, Tenn., he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a master’s degree in healthcare administration from the University of Minnesota.

Powell began his career with Baptist as an administrative resident in 1954. He held a variety of positions throughout his 40-year professional Baptist career. He developed Baptist Memorial Hospital-East − now known as Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis − in the late 1970s, and in 1980, Powell became president of Baptist Memorial Hospital. The following year, he oversaw the creation of the Baptist Memorial Health Care system. During his tenure as president, which ended in 1994, Baptist experienced unprecedented expansion from two hospitals to a health care system with 32 health care-related entities, about half of which were hospitals serving West Tennessee, North Mississippi and East Arkansas. Powell was also responsible for the planning for Baptist Health Sciences University and other labs and services.

After his retirement in 1994, Powell continued his relationship with Baptist by acting as president emeritus and senior consultant for the Baptist Memorial Health Care System, a position he held for the rest of his life.

Powell also was instrumental in the formation of the Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation, the charitable arm of the Baptist system, which provides each Baptist facility with resources to purchase new technology, implement innovative programs and enhance patient care.

“Joe Powell devoted his remarkable life to Baptist, his family and his faith,” said Stephen Reynolds, president and CEO of Baptist Memorial Health Care. “He was a great mentor who always challenged us to reach higher than we ever thought possible.”

The American College of Healthcare Executives Regent for Tennessee from 1978 to 1984, Powell served on the boards of the National Committee for Quality Health Care, the Healthcare Research and Development Institute, the Healthcare Leadership Council, and the Memphis board of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. During his career, Powell served as president of the Memphis Hospital Council, chairman of the Tennessee Hospital Association, trustee-at-large for the American Hospital Association, and chairman of the Health Services Division of United Way.

Powell received numerous commendations throughout his career, including the President’s Award and the Distinguished Service Award from THA, the L.M. Graves Memorial Health Award for Outstanding Achievement in Community Health, and the L. Palmer Brown Silver Hope Award from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate of humanics from Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

Powell is survived by his wife, Ann, three daughters and four grandchildren.