Robert J. Dayton
Naples Daily News
January 23, 2016
Robert Dayton, whose career spanned decades in support of a vibrant, thriving downtown Minneapolis, died from pneumonia-related complications on January 17th in Naples, Florida. He was 73 years old. A great-grandson of George Draper Dayton who founded Dayton's in 1902, Bob carried on the family's retail legacy, first at Dayton's and later with Harold.
After graduating from Yale in 1964, Bob joined the family business at Dayton's, starting in the women's shoe department. Over a 13-year career at what was to become Dayton Hudson and then Target, Bob held a variety of positions throughout the store, eventually being named General Merchandise Manager and then Vice President of Stores. While still with Dayton's, Bob attended the Program for Management Development at Harvard Business School. Always a merchandiser at heart, Bob became widely recognized for his deftness in identifying and supporting designers such as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren early in their careers.
In 1977 Bob left Dayton's and purchased Harold, the upscale women's specialty store in downtown Minneapolis. Working together with his wife Joanie, Bob restored Harold's iconic status as a retail institution in Minneapolis. During those years, along with moderate to couture ready-to-wear, Bob brought together under the Harold roof a variety of specialty boutiques from the east and west coasts such as Williams Sonoma, Pierre Deux, and Frank McIntosh tabletop.
In 1984 Bob spearheaded the development of The Conservatory, downtown Minneapolis' first enclosed shopping complex. Bucking the trend toward suburban retail development at the time, The Conservatory served as a valiant effort to bring retail vibrancy back downtown, successfully attracting stores such as Orvis and FAO Schwarz which had not yet expanded beyond their traditional local roots on the east and west coasts.
While with Harold, Bob served on and chaired the Downtown Council, advocating for a strong, healthy, and diversified downtown that effectively blended retail, corporate, restaurant, entertainment, and residential life. A life-long sports enthusiast, not only was Bob passionate about Minnesota sports, he also worked tirelessly to strengthen the Twin Cities as a major-league community through his efforts to bring Super Bowl XXVI to the Metrodome, keep the Timberwolves from relocating, and secure funding for a new outdoor Twins stadium.
Throughout his professional career, Bob also served on a number of corporate boards including Northwestern National Bank, Great Northern Insurance Company, Angiometics, First American Funds, and Williams Sonoma.
In 1992 Bob became CEO of Okabena, the Dayton family office. Over the course of twelve years at Okabena, he strengthened and professionalized the family office, eventually hiring the first non-family CEO to run the investment and financial services firm. First as CEO and then as Chairman of the Board, Bob was instrumental in helping transform Okabena into a nationally-recognized, pioneering leader in the then-nascent family-office industry that today serves both family and non-family clients, endowments, and foundations.
Fiercely loyal to and enormously proud of the people and places he loved, Bob was committed to serving the communities in which he lived. He worked tirelessly on behalf of local non-profit organizations including the Guthrie Theater, the YMCA, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, and Westminster Presbyterian Church. Bob served on the board of the United Way, chairing its annual fund in 1988. In addition, Bob served as a Trustee of the Blake School, Carlton College, the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, and the University of Minnesota Foundation.
In 1994 Bob founded the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota to promote mentoring for Minnesota youth. Today the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota works with more than 300 programs across the state that serve over 200,000 youth of all ages, and in 2011 Bob was named Chair Emeritus.
The middle son of Donald and Lucy Dayton, Bob grew up in Wayzata, Minnesota. He attended the Blake School, Eaglebrook, and the Taft School in Connecticut. While at Yale, Bob met his wife Joanie, then attending Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, on a blind date at the Dartmouth Winter Carnival. They were married in Glen Ridge, New Jersey in 1964 and had 3 boys.
Throughout his life, Bob enjoyed a number of hobbies, sports, and activities including bridge, hunting, squash, travel, and jigsaw puzzles. But more than any other activity, Bob loved the game of golf. Beginning early in his life at Woodhill Country Club, Bob developed a passion for the game that eventually extended east to Pine Valley and west to Cypress Point. He cofounded Spring Hill Golf Club in Orono, Minnesota, and enjoyed playing in the U.S. Seniors in recent years.
Bob will always be remembered for his warm heart, wonderful smile, infectious laughter, fantastic sense of humor, and tremendous spirit. He is survived by Joanie, his wife of 51 years, two brothers Ned (Sherry Ann) and John (Arlene), his 3 sons, Jim (Megan), Toby (Mae), and Scott, and 7 grandchildren (Emma, Joe, Jack, Lewis, Cal, Teddy, and Kelly). A memorial service will be held at 4:00 PM on Thursday, February 18th at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis. In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift to the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota 615 First Avenue Northeast, Suite 125 Minneapolis, MN 55413.
Essay from our 50th Reunion Class Book
My Top Ten (or so) Memories Fifty Years Later
by Bob Dayton
- Phi Gam, Fence, DKE, and Haunt Club booking Bo Diddley for a four-gig weekend in the spring of 1963. It was on that weekend that Joanie, my wife of forty-nine years, and I became an item.
- The spellbinding lectures of John Blum, Howard Lamar, Ed Morgan, and Vince Scully.
- My father writing down quotes from William Sloane Coffin on Fall Sunday mornings in Battell Chapel.
- Duplicate bridge at the Jewish Community Center.
- Green Cups at Morys.
- JFK's assassination and the canceled Yale/Harvard weekend (with Joanie's engagement ring in my pocket).
- My first class at Yale, September 1960 ... Spanish 10. The ony word I understood came after the bell. ("Mañana")
- The undefeated 1960 Yale football team.
- Kingman Brewster's inauguration ... the pageantry of it all.
- Breakfast at Commons, freshman year.
- Finding a quiet desk in the stacks of Sterling Library.
- Steak night at Calhoun or Pigs-in-the-blanket on Broadway.
- The ninth green on the Yale golf course.