Douglas Dayton, the first president of Target Corp. and a community
philanthropist, died Friday after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 88.
"He really cared about improving the lives of everyone," said Wendy Dayton, his wife of 16 years.
Dayton helped others through activism with social justice, education, arts and nature-preservation groups, Wendy Dayton said.
He served as chair of the board for the YMCA, supported the University of Minnesota Raptor Center and worked on a 40-acre prairie restoration that he planned to give to Minnesota as an easement, Wendy Dayton said.
Julia Ponder, executive director of the Raptor Center, described Dayton as a longtime supporter and generous, quiet advocate.
"(He was) one of those people who were always there for us," Ponder said. Meeting with Dayton a few times a year, Ponder said her favorite meetings always took place while walking in the prairie that he restored and talking about the raptors and ospreys the pair came across.
Dayton, who lived in Wayzata, was an uncle of Gov. Mark Dayton.
"My Uncle Doug was an extraordinary businessman, philanthropist and leader of our family," the governor said Saturday in a prepared statement. "I have cherished memories of our times together: duck and pheasant hunting in Heron Lake, serving on the board of a family business and discussing the latest political developments."
In 1961, Dayton left Dayton's department store company to launch Target, where he served as
the first president. He resigned from Dayton Hudson Corp. and the Target Corp. in 1971, saying he regarded his experience at Target as "the most challenging, rewarding and productive" of all the positions he held with Dayton Hudson, according to Pioneer Press archives.
"With his typical modesty, Doug didn't claim the public recognition he deserved for his success," Gov. Dayton said. "Yet what an enormous difference his business acumen has made for thousands of Target employees, customers, and charitable causes."
Douglas Dayton opened and managed Dayton's first branch store in 1954 in Rochester, Minn., and served in various roles, including vice president of branch stores and merchandise vice president for Dayton's, according to the archive.
The company that would become the Target Corp. began in 1902 with the founding of Dayton Dry Goods Co. by George Draper Dayton, according to Target's website. After his death in the late 1930s, Dayton's sons and grandsons took over leadership and began to expand the Dayton Co. Target opened its first store in Roseville in 1962. A 1969 merger with the J.L. Hudson Corp. of Detroit formed the Dayton-Hudson Corp. In 1990, the corporation bought Marshall Fields, the Chicago-based department store. By 2000, Dayton-Hudson was renamed the Target Corp., which in 2004 sold Marshall Fields, then rebranded as Macy's.
Dayton left the company in 1974 and formed a venture capital firm. He retired in 1994 but remained active in charitable and philanthropic groups.
Target Corp. praised its former leader Sunday in a statement.
"Along with his brothers and cousin, Doug was instrumental in helping to guide the strategic direction of Dayton Hudson Corporation for many years and institutionalize the values that are at the heart of Target Corporation today," said Gregg Steinhafel, Target president and CEO. "We are thankful for Doug's leadership, and his many contributions to our company and community.
Dayton was a graduate of the Blake School and Amherst College. He also served in an Army infantry division in Europe during World War II, where he was injured and received a Purple Heart
In addition to his wife and nephew, Dayton's survivors include three sons, a stepdaughter and a brother, Bruce.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
This report contains information from the Associated Press.
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