Vanessa J. Castagna appointed alumni trustee to Purdue Board of Trustees

February 28, 2013  

Vanessa J. Castagna

Vanessa J. Castagna
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue Alumni Association announced that Vanessa J. (Dingledine) Castagna has been appointed to serve as alumni trustee to the Purdue University Board of Trustees.

Castagna replaces Michael Birck of Hinsdale, Ill., who, after 15 years of service to Purdue as alumni trustee, has resigned due to health issues. In accordance with Purdue Alumni Association constitutional bylaws, the chairman of the association's board of directors appoints an alumni trustee when a vacancy occurs. Castagna will serve the remainder of Birck's term, which ends June 30, 2015.

"We are very excited to have an individual of Vanessa Castagna's caliber to serve as an alumni trustee on the Purdue University Board of Trustees," said Mary Harris-Dieter, chairman of the Purdue Alumni Association Board of Directors. "Her vast experience in leadership and strategic planning, coupled with her strong passion for Purdue, will make her an excellent addition to the board. As a forward and creative thinker, she will be a valuable asset as Purdue addresses the many challenges that face higher education, both today and tomorrow. She is committed to Purdue's pre-eminence and ensuring the university's continued prosperity."

Keith Krach, chairman of the Purdue Board of Trustees, said, "We are grateful for Mike Birck's leadership, service and dedication to Purdue. The alumni association has selected a truly exceptional business leader to step into Mike's very big shoes, and we look forward to working with Vanessa and offer her our warmest welcome. She is a true Purdue success story and will be an invaluable contributor to the board."

Birck said, "Purdue has chosen two outstanding leaders of late, further strengthening the prospects for Purdue's future success."

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.

She is the former chairwoman of Mervyn's Department Stores and former CEO and chairwoman of JCPenney Stores, Catalogue and Internet. Castagna has 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.

Castagna 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's degree in psychology and speech communication from Purdue in 1971. She resides in Dallas and Naples, Fla.

"I am thrilled and honored to serve in this incredible role. Purdue has been in my life for 45 years as a student, band member, alumna, Old Master, volunteer and now as trustee," Castagna said. "With my perspective on the university and passion for its success, I pledge to serve my alma mater ever grateful and ever true. Hail Purdue!"

Source: Kirk Cerny, Purdue Alumni Association president and CEO, 765-494-5175,

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