NEW YORK — Martha Scudder, a top Bloomingdale’s human resources executive who in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies recruited and nurtured much of the talent that shaped the store’s growth, died Sunday in Minneapolis, according to a spokesman for the family, Jerry Doty. She was 92.
As head of the training and executive placement department, she created and developed a buyer training program that became what many executives considered a standard for the industry and was known as the “Harvard” of retail training programs. It developed buyers into business people who were not just focused on the fashion, and also put them on career tracks. When Bloomingdale’s launched an expansion of branch stores in the early Seventies, Scudder went to each suburban location to interview local talent for the executive positions.
Born in 1911 in Huntington, Ind., Scudder graduated from Purdue University and worked at the Fair Store in Chicago. She received a master of science degree in retail management in 1936 from Simmons College in Boston and then worked at Bamburger’s in Newark, N.J. In 1946, she joined Bloomingdale’s and was eventually selected for “Who’s Who in Business,” one of the first women so honored. She retired in 1976.
“She was marvelous,” said Marvin Traub, partner in Financo Inc. and the former chairman and chief executive officer of Bloomingdale’s. “She really did some outstanding recruiting and had very high standards. She was the ‘straight-up-and-down type,’ meaning she believed in jackets and ties and good manners, and had a New England-type upbringing. But those high standards carried into the store.”
Traub added that her recruiting efforts became an important part of Bloomingdale’s turnaround from a low-end store to a world-class shopping destination.
Among her notable recruits to Bloomingdale’s that rose to retail stardom were Millard Drexler, Lester Gribetz and Philip Miller.
She also recruited Jeff Sherman right out of college, who stayed with Bloomingdale’s for 30 years and rose to president of the chain. “She had a lot of influence on the hiring, and she understood the expanded role of the human resource function,” said Sherman, who is currently chief operating officer of the Polo Retail Group. “She recognized not only what people could do for the company as soon as they were hired, but ultimately what they could do for the store tomorrow. She recognized that the company was going to become bigger, that it would evolve from an East Side store to a regional, then a national, department store. She had a vision of the future and knew how to match talent for the future and she stayed very close to those she brought in.”
A memorial service for Scudder in New York is being planned. Scudder is survived by her twin sister, Margaret Howard, of Yellow Springs, Ohio, as well as nephews and nieces.