DALLAS — Terry J. Lundgren was a student at the University of Arizona when he realized that veterinary science wasn't for him and switched to a double major in business and psychology.
After graduating, Lundgren, now chairman, president and chief executive officer of Federated Department Stores, was recruited in 1975 by retail dynamo Allen Questrom, then senior vice president of Bullocks, who persuaded him to join the department store as a trainee and assistant buyer, even though Lundgren was leaning toward a more lucrative position in management training and sales at Xerox.
The chief of the largest U.S. department store chain — the first person in his immediate family to get a college degree — fondly remembers the university and is determined to help develop future merchants at his alma mater. Lundgren said in an interview that he has given an unspecified amount of money — "more than I've ever donated to anything in my entire life" — to the school, which last year renamed its retail center the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing.
"The support I received during my time at the University of Arizona, the ultimate education and the experience meant a lot to me, and on reflection, I wanted to give something back to the school," Lundgren said. "UA became fertile ground for talent in our organization, and, given the fact that they are really trying to step up the retail program, I wanted to get involved."
Lundgren joined Arizona's board of trustees in 1999 and got involved in the retail program and fund-raising at the request of university president Peter Likins. He has received an honorary doctorate, delivered a commencement address and visits the school in Tucson a couple of times a year to meet with students and faculty.
He will be a keynote speaker at the university's Global Retailing Conference March 30-31 at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson, part of a powerhouse lineup that includes Tommy Hilfiger; Tom Murry, president and chief operating office of Calvin Klein Inc.; Glenn Lyon, president of Finish Line, an athletic shoe retailer, and top executives from FedEx, Kinko's, Microsoft Corp. and Home Depot.
Having Lundgren's name over the door has raised the retail center's profile, said Melinda Burke, director of the program. Founded in 1993 with assistance from J.C. Penney, Macy's, Sears and Wal-Mart, the center has 25 retail partners that help fund it and consult on the curriculum.
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"