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NRF Foundation Raises Over $3M for Future Retail Leaders, Magic Johnson Honors Target CEO Brian Cornell

More than 600 retail industry executives gathered at the Marriott Marquis Times Square in New York City Wednesday night for the seventh annual NRF Foundation Honors.

The event, which was postponed in January due to the rise in Omicron cases in the City, raised a total of $3.22 million to fund the Foundation’s programs, resources, and scholarships.

“Thanks to our generous supporters, the NRF Foundation is well-positioned to continue our important work, and to help even more people do better for themselves, their families and their communities,” NRF Foundation executive director Bill Thorne said. “There are so many inspiring stories that I am humbled to share on behalf of the people who have built extraordinary careers with our programs and resources. I am beyond grateful to our supporters for believing in this industry and in the NRF Foundation.”

The event kicked off with co-hosts Jeff Gennette, chairman and CEO of Macy’s Inc., and Mike George, former president and CEO at Qurate Retail, Inc.

Magic Johnson presents Brian Cornell the NRF Visionary Award
Magic Johnson presents Brian Cornell the NRF Visionary Award.
CREDIT: Calen Rose

Richard Widdowson, VP of global retail and consumer goods solutions at SAS and member of the NRF Foundation board of directors, announced Robert Davison Long of Columbia College Chicago as the top recipient in the 2022 NRF Foundation Next Generation Scholarship. Davison Long received $25,000 and four other finalists received $10,000 each.

Kohl’s Inc. CEO Michelle Gass announced Haley Shannon, Tooba Athar, and K-Lynn Ward from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising as the top team in the 2022 NRF Foundation Student Challenge competition. Each was awarded a $5,000 scholarship in the business competition that tasked students with developing an idea for creating a private label brand for Kohl’s that embodies a more inclusive and equitable community for all.

Phoenix Union High School District’s Trevor G. Browne High School was honored as the 2022 NRF Foundation Rise Up Partner of the Year. The award was presented by Old Navy CEO Nancy Green and celebrates the school for its innovative use of the Rise Up training and credentialing program to make a positive impact on individuals and communities. Instructor John-Martin Rigsby accepted the award on stage and was surprised with $10,000 from the NRF Foundation to take back to his students at Trevor G. Browne to continue to help them prepare for great careers in retail.

The evening also recognized the list of people shaping retail’s future including Joel Anderson, president and CEO of Five Below Inc.; Chris Kempczinski, president and CEO of McDonald’s Corporation; Neela Montgomery, former EVP of CVS Health and former president of CVS Pharmacy; Sumit Singh, CEO of Chewy Inc.; and Julie Wainwright, founder and CEO of The RealReal.

Matthew Shay, Magic Johnson, Brian Cornell, NRF Foundation
Matthew Shay, Magic Johnson, and Brian Cornell.
CREDIT: Calen Rose

But the highlight of the night commenced when American basketball and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson presented NRF’s The Visionary award 2022 to Target board chairman and CEO Brian Cornell. According to the NRF, this award is given to an inspiring retail leader with a history of spearheading change in the industry.

In accepting the award, Cornell expressed gratitude to the Target team, his family and former colleagues, and discussed the outsized impact of the retail industry on our economy and communities. “It is an honor for me to be here tonight, but as so many of you know, this is a little awkward for me,” Cornell admitted during his acceptance speech. “Individual honors are certainly worth celebrating, but my greatest pride comes from being part of a team, and I personally think retail is the ultimate team sport.”

He went on to describe how Target went all-in on stores, even during the pre-pandemic “stores are dead” rhetoric that was circulating the industry. “Since 2017, we have renovated hundreds of stores from coast to coast, and opened dozens of new stores, including 20 right here in New York City,” Cornell added. “Our stores is why we’re a $160 billion growth company today.”

Cornell ended his remarks with this sentiment. “No one is going to remember that earnings report from 2020, all that people will remember is what we leave behind,” Cornell said. “We have an opportunity now to change everything around us to benefit our consumers and our teams. And this is a tremendous opportunity. It inspires me every day.”

April 13, 2022 - New York, New York, USA: NRF Foundation Honors, honoring Target Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell. With National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay and Irvin Magic Johnson. Photo by Ian Wagreich / © Ian Wagreich Photography
CREDIT: Ian Wagreich
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