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Vanessa J. Castagna

Vanessa J. CastagnaVanessa J. Castagna was appointed by the Purdue Alumni Association, and subsequently Governor Pence, to serve as one of three alumni trustees; she began her term in February 2013.  Castagna has been a retail leader and executive for 38 years, working for blue chip Fortune 50 retail companies and is a key retail consultant and adviser to private equity and investment companies.

Castagna is the former chairwoman of Mervyn's Department Stores and former CEO and chairwoman of JCPenney Stores, Catalogue and Internet. She has also held senior-level merchandising positions with Wal-Mart and Target stores and began her career with Federated Department Stores. She also has been a member of Cerberus Capital Management's operations team.

Currently, Castagna serves as an independent director on the boards of Levi Strauss and Co. and Carter's/Oshkosh. She also serves as chairman of the Purdue University Band Advisory Board and was recently recognized by the Purdue President's Council for spearheading a fundraising effort that resulted in a $1.5 million endowment of the Purdue director of bands.

Her former affiliations include the advisory board of the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, the National Minority Supplier Development Council and chair of the Women's Leadership Council of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. Castagna is a past participant in Purdue's Old Masters program. She spoke at Harvard's Women in Business Undergraduate Conference about "Lessons for Success."

Passionate about creating value, building teams and making a positive difference in the companies she works with, Castagna is also dedicated to volunteer work with organizations that positively impact children's lives. Fundraising activities include: the Children's Miracle Network, NYU Medical Center's Rusk Institute, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America "Afterschool" Program, American Cancer Society, American Red Cross, March of Dimes and the United Way.

Castagna has been honored many times within the retail and apparel manufacturing industry, and as an industry leader by the Young Menswear Association as its award recipient in recognition of her outstanding support of educational opportunities for young individuals studying for careers in the apparel industry.  She has been listed among Fortune Magazine's "The 50 Most Powerful Women in Business" for four consecutive years, as well as two years on Forbes Magazine's "The 100 Most Powerful Women" list.

A native of Selma, Ind., Castagna received her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and speech communication from Purdue in 1971.