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In the late 1960s, Orie T. Mullen Jr. was just another guy from Simpsonville on some pretty good little league baseball teams in Shelby County.
Today he heads a company overseeing health-insurance coverage for 3.2 million active and retired members of the United States armed forces.
Mullen is president of Humana Military, a $3.2 billion company based in Louisville that manages the U.S. Department of Defense’s health insurance program, covering a 10-state region in the South.
But such a lofty position wasn’t anywhere on his radar when he graduated from Shelby County High School in 1975, which, Mullen proudly notes, was the last non-consolidated class before it was merged with Shelbyville High School.
“My dreams were just to get out of college,” said Mullen, who graduated from Morehead State University with a degree in business administration and a focus in data processing after going a year on a baseball grant-in-aid at the now-closed Sioux Empire College in Hawarden, Iowa. “I was the first member of my family to go to college and graduate. I was first, and I was lucky to get that done. After that, I wanted to get out and raise a family and be a good taxpayer.”
Born in Cynthiana, Mullen moved to Simpsonville in the third grade. He excelled in baseball, basketball and football, but baseball provided some of his best memories. He fondly recalls his role playing catcher on a little league squad that won a state championship team in 1968 featuring such local stars as Terry Hawkins, John Parker and Keith Hall.
“Terry hit a home run in the last inning of the championship game,” Mullen said. “It was exciting.”
He said the next year’s team had a record of something like 35-2 but was defeated by Franklin County in the championship game.
When asked, Mullen quickly rattled off names of some of his teammates on that squad: Beau Matthews, Chuck Thurman, Brian Coulter, George Moore, Mike Clark, Ricky Murphy, Donnie Mason, and Vince Chambers. Bobby Cook, who was the basketball and baseball coach at Shelbyville High was the head coach, and the assistant coach was Steve Kingsolver.
“All of the friends, the sports and all of the people I knew there are still very important to me,” said Mullen, who added he lived in “downtown Waddy in the old bank building” for a few years of his Shelby County tour. “I still stay in touch with some of the classmates. Being in a small community, there are lifelong relationships that you never lose.”
Mullen’s work career started in 1980 as an information technologist with the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and two years later, he started a 4-year run as an IT consultant. He joined Humana in 1986 as a senior systems engineer and helped the company’s Group Health Systems Department separate its hospital and health insurance businesses.
He has since toiled for the company in such positions as director of systems, director of operations, and director of claims oversight. But the promotion in 1996 to director of operations for the Jacksonville (Fla.) Claims Service Center was a key turning point in his life, Mullen said.
“It was a huge career move,” he said. “I left the technology side and went to the administrative side. At the time, I had designs to be a chief information officer; this was a chance to get in on the business side.”
In 2003, he was promoted as chief operating officer of Humana Military and a year later was named vice president. He has been president since February.
Mullen now resides in Bucker, and he and his wife of 32 years, Samantha, a native of Versailles, have two daughters: Kelsey, a recent Morehead State graduate scheduled to be married in September; and Hannah, a 2012 Oldham High School graduate who will begin studying nursing this fall at Morehead State.
But through it all, he says he has never lost sense of the small-town values he learned to embrace growing up in Shelby County.
“Everyone knows you, and you know everyone,” said Mullen, who now resides in Oldham County. “You have to live up to that. Things go good, that’s one thing. But when things go bad, it teaches you lessons. You learn to respect other people, respect other people’s property – because it always got back to your parents.”
Remember: Orie Mullen
FULL NAME:Orie T. Mullen Jr.
JOB TITLE:President, Humana Military
EDUCATION:Shelby County High School (1975); Bachelor of Business Administration, Morehead State University; Wharton Executive Management Program at the University of Pennsylvania; Certificate in Data Processing from the Institute for the Certification of Computer Professionals.
HOMETOWN:Cynthiana but formerly lived in Simpsonville and Waddy
FAMILY:Wife, Samantha; daughters Kelsey and Hannah.
About the series
The Sentinel-Newswill profile Shelby County natives and former residents who have established business success elsewhere. If you have a suggestion for someone to be considered, send an E-mail to email@example.com.