Former Macy’s Chairman and CEO Terry Lundgren Visits Alma Mater

Dec. 6, 2018

Terry Lundgren and Eller Faculty

Former Chairman and CEO of Macy’s Terry Lundgren '75 BSBA visited the Eller College of Management in October to share highlights and lessons from his distinguished career in retail and to offer advice to students about to enter the workforce.

“I learned early on that celebrating other people’s participation in an initiative that you are working on is more productive and impactful than celebrating your own ownership,” said Lundgren during a classroom presentation, reflecting on the most impactful skills he gained during his time at Eller.


Terry Lundgren with undergraduate students
Terry Lundgren with undergraduate students

Applying what he learned as an undergraduate student, Lundgren implemented this mindset during his time as an executive at Federated Department Stores (known as Macy's since 2007): “I always made it a priority to ensure that everyone on my team, throughout the corporate structure, felt ownership both in the strategies we implemented as a company, as well as in the company as a whole.”

“In order to do this, I would often make surprise visits, never announced, to our retail locations. This way, I could gain candid and real-time feedback about how our teams worked and how our strategies performed on the sales floor.” Lundgren confessed this approach often caught his sales associates off guard.

A common thread that wove through Lundgren’s stories was his advice to “bloom where you are planted. No matter what job you are in, do that job better than anyone else. When people see you going above and beyond what is expected, they will notice.” According to Lundgren, this mentality and work ethic were key factors in his rise to leadership positions.

Even in the face of numerous career successes, Lundgren often referred to his failures as moments of growth. “My most valuable experiences have come from my failures, for we learn much more from our failures than from our successes. It is when our back is against the wall that we learn the most about ourselves and how we respond to problems.”

A California native, Lundgren joined Federated immediately upon graduating from the University of Arizona. By age 35, he was leading the Bullocks Wilshire division in Los Angeles. He served as CEO of Neiman Marcus before returning to Federated in 1994.

As Chairman and CEO, he oversaw the 2005 merger of Federated and May Department Stores Company, creating one of the largest retailers in the world, with more than 800 U.S. stores and net sales of U.S. $24.9 billion.

Lundgren retired in January 2018 after serving 14 years as chairman and CEO. In addition to speaking with Eller undergraduate and MBA students, Lundgren spent the week sharing knowledge with Eller faculty, staff and Dean Paulo Goes.