On the Money

June 10, 2024

A Q&A with Terry Lundgren highlighting the “why” driving our donors to give.

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Terry J. Lundgren ’75 (founder & CEO of TJL Advisors and retired chair & CEO of Macy’s  Inc.) and Marianne Cracciolo Mago ’93 (president & CEO of The Steele Foundation) spoke at the launch of the Fuel Wonder campaign in November.

Terry J. Lundgren ’75 (founder & CEO of TJL Advisors and retired chair & CEO of Macy’s Inc.) and Marianne Cracciolo Mago ’93 (president & CEO of The Steele Foundation) spoke at the launch of the Fuel Wonder campaign in November.

Photo: Chris Richards

As a child, Terry Lundgren ’75 mostly saw his father at dinner, between the hardworking man’s days on an assembly line and his nights and weekends selling real estate. Lundgren’s mother, for her part, raised six children — none of whom, aside from Terry, went to college — with “an iron fist and lots of love,” a feat he calls extraordinary.

Lundgren later became CEO of Federated Department Stores, known since 2007 as Macy’s Inc. The father of two loves all things retail — department, big-box, specialty and off-price stores, not to mention the suppliers, designers and technology that make them hum. 

Lundgren’s friends include the CEOs of some of America’s largest companies and others who have climbed the ladder in business. But his early memories of his parents, who did not study past high school but gave their family everything they could, reverberate still. 

A co-chair of the university’s Fuel Wonder fundraising campaign alongside Marianne Cracchiolo Mago ’93, Lundgren does all he can to give back to his alma mater both financially and with his time. He offered the latter for this conversation with us. 


Patron: When was the first time you gave to or volunteered for a cause? 

Lundgren: For a good part of my younger life, I didn’t have anything to give. But there were always volunteer projects. When I was a sophomore at Villa Park High School in Orange County, California, we had floods from our neighboring hillside. We had rolling foothills, and this was an area susceptible to high levels of rain. The school offered the opportunity to skip half a day of class if we’d go fill sandbags to avoid damage from mudslides. This sadly became a bit of a routine at a certain time of year. It was an unfortunate situation, but we were doing something positive. We were getting great feedback from the neighborhood whose homes we were attempting to protect, and that felt good. 

Patron: What causes are you most passionate about supporting these days? 

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Lundgren sees himself in today’s students, some of whom need the support he once did.

Lundgren sees himself in today’s students, some of whom need the support he once did.

Photo provided by Eller College of Management

Lundgren: My involvement at the University of Arizona is big for me. We’ve supported our retail center there for more than a decade. It’s been a long love affair and fantastic to watch it grow — and watch students become more sophisticated about opportunities in the retail industry. I bring top retailers to Tucson to talk about the future of and challenges with retail. Our students meet individuals like fashion designers Tommy Hilfiger and Vera Wang and CEOs like Doug McMillon of Walmart and Michele Buck of The Hershey Company. I don’t pay them to come. They come because they’re giving back their time, often their most valuable commodity. Our students shake their hands, listen to their stories. And if one or two can say “I’m stimulated by this speaker” and break through with confidence that they can do more, that’s a win. 

Patron: Would you say it’s our responsibility to give back if we can? How important is philanthropy for society? 

Lundgren: Extremely important, and it’s harder to give back time when you become financially successful, I think, than to give money. I grew up at the university. I was cut off by my parents when I was a sophomore because I was goofing off. Going to college was a privilege for me, and my father thought I was taking advantage. He was right. I ended up getting a taste of what it was like to be on my own, and it was the best thing that happened to me. And I look back, and my professors and counselors helped me through difficulty. To me, that just says I need to give back to the institution that helped me. How can I give back to students like me, who want to dig in but need financial wherewithal? I’m trying to assist along those lines. 

Patron: What factors make a philanthropic experience most rewarding for you? 

Lundgren: I don’t mind giving financially to things I’m passionate about. But if I can be part of it and offer time, advice and fundraising opportunities, I’m all in. I co-founded a CEO roundtable, along with Henry Kravitz, where we got CEOs across the country to join the American Heart Association in helping employees become healthier. We realized that sometimes our best intentions led to high productivity demands but did not create a healthy work environment. healthy work environment. We were thinking, “What if we provided our associates with a way to keep track of and improve their physical health? Maybe we can bring down the rates of diabetes, heart failure and other things that are stress related.” I loved it. Kravitz and I contributed financially to get things moving. But it really came back to our time — sharing and implementing programs within our organizations to help employees out. 

Patron: What lessons, about the need to give or about life generally, have you shared with your children? 

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Lundgren, shown speaking, invites other retail industry leaders to share their perspectives with UArizona students.

Lundgren, shown speaking, invites other retail industry leaders to share their perspectives with UArizona students.

Photo provided by: Eller College of Management

Lundgren: I have two daughters. They’ve grown up differently than I did. When my kids were born, I’d whisper, “Can you say ‘Dada’? And can you say, ‘I’m going to college’?” Because if I had anything to do with it, it was not going to be optional. I wanted them to have whatever opportunities there are. I want to encourage, where possible, those who have any interest, like my kids, to finish their degrees. I’m not as interested in what you pursue, just that you learn how to learn and are ready to start and complete something. Both of my daughters graduated from college, and my youngest has two master’s degrees. I am very proud of both of them. They get it. They work hard, and they don’t take anything for granted. We have a family foundation fund where my daughters can designate what they want to give back to. They stay close to organizations important to them and give back with knowledge, time and money. 

Patron: What about students? What is your guidance for them? 

Lundgren: I talk to students about being present, asking questions and focusing on the moment they’re in. I say, “If I’m taking my time to be here with you, you should make sure you do the same. That’s how you learn and how you can expand your horizons. When your time comes, when somebody’s looking to you, make sure you take a breath, get out of your self-interest and concentrate on ‘What do they need?’” I think that is one of the best ways of giving back. 

Patron: How has your affinity for the university developed over the years? 

Lundgren: I’ve been inspired by the leadership at the university, starting with former President Peter Likins. He got me interested in my initial big donation to create the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing. Now, Bobby Robbins is on the phone encouraging me, listening to what I have to say and sharing his vision for the future. When you do that, a special connection takes place, and you just want to help.