Bud Albers: A gifted life
For Edward “Bud” Albers Jr., every day was a gift. That was true from the time he was born in 1925 to the day he died in October 2016. Albers was president and owner of Albers Drug (now AmerisourceBergen) in Knoxville, Tenn., as well as Skyland Hospital Supply (now Concordance Healthcare Solutions), also in Knoxville. He served as chairman of the National Wholesale Druggists’ Association (now the Healthcare Distribution Management Association) as well as the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers, for which he entertained peers from around the country and the world in his home, with his wife, Harriet, and three daughters, Louise, Neill and Emily.
Albers was also a man who loved to laugh, travel and entertain, according to those who knew him. He took pride in the city of his birth, Knoxville, as well as his alma mater, the University of Tennessee. After retirement, he started the ROMEOs (Retired Old Men Eating Out), and he also became an accomplished – and prolific – watercolorist, painting scenes close to home and from his many trips abroad. He loved learning, teaching, and, most of all, spending time with grandchildren.
It would be an understatement to say that her father liked to laugh, says his daughter, Neill Albers Townsend, who recalls playing with her sisters in the Albers warehouse on Sunday mornings when they were kids. “He was funny. He was wonderful at writing poems for toasts. He was very engaging, very genuine, and a beautiful speech-giver. He was very comfortable in front of a crowd.
“And our mom was the most amazing support system for him,” hosting reception suites and traveling abroad with her husband to meet wholesalers from other countries. “Mom never worked in the business. But she worked for the business.”
“You never had to have anything in writing with him,” says Buddy Wert, executive vice president, business development/national accounts, Concordance Healthcare Solutions. “A handshake was good enough.” Wert was a sales rep for Skyland when Albers acquired the company. “And he always had a story, always wanted to tell a joke. I never saw him upset. He was a mentor and coach to his people.
“It would be hard to find anyone with anything bad to say about Bud Albers.”
“Mr. Albers was a very special person and leader regardless of the situation,” says Mike Carver, corporate accounts director for medical distribution, GOJO Industries, who was with Skyland at the time of Albers’ acquisition. “He viewed each and every customer as a unique partner. He had a wonderful sense of humor.
“He was a wonderful listener. Mr. Albers always looked to provide solutions. He always thought that being a good listener and then being able to provide solutions were the keys to success.”
Albers served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, after which he attended the University of Tennessee, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 1948. After graduation, he joined the family business, Albers Drug Company, which had been founded in 1864 by his grandfather, Andrew Jackson Albers, with a couple of Union Army buddies. When his father died in 1954, Bud Albers became president of Albers Drug Co. He was 29 years old. He opened several branches, and in 1987, acquired med/surg distributor Skyland Hospital Supply from the Bluefield Supply Corp.
“It was a new thing for Bud to acquire a med/surg company,” says Wert. “He thought it would be a good mix with pharmaceuticals; he could offer a full package to our customers.”
In 1994, faced with some health issues as well as consolidation among drug wholesalers, Albers sold his company to Walker Drug Co., which ultimately became part of AmeriSource, now Amerisource Bergen. (In 2001, Seneca Medical – now Concordance Healthcare Solutions – acquired the medical portion of AmeriSource, called AmeriSource Medical Supply.)
A good eye
Albers had his first watercolor class at an NWDA function. “He was a natural at it,” says Townsend, who estimated she has about 50 of his works in her home, 10 of them on the wall. When he was 87, Albers had a website built to house and display more than 600 of his works.
He was a lifelong member of Church Street United Methodist Church, where his great-great-grandfather, David Sullins, had been pastor. He served in various positions on the Greater Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, the Boy Scout Advisory Board and other local associations. He was instrumental in doubling the size and scope of the Museum of East Tennessee History.
He enjoyed being part of the addition and renovation process, says Townsend. “But as he got older, he thought all architects were idiots, because they couldn’t design a building that would work.”