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Former May exec Babcock dies

Vero Beach, FL — David Babcock, the former May Department Stores Company and Dayton's Department Store executive, died July 13 from complications of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He was 86 years old.

He was generally credited with management-by-objective disciplines that helped transform retailing from a downtown-based business to branch store or suburban mall-based retailing on a national level.

He spent more than 30 years in the department store channel, with more than 13 years at May, where he served in numerous roles, including president, chairman and ceo.

Babcock and Stanley Goodman, then-chairman of May, worked together to create a backbone for the orderly transition of power as the company expanded or consolidated. Babcock also introduced profit sharing for all levels of associates at May and helped to build a strong board of directors, largely from executives outside the company.

When Goodman retired in 1976, Babcock was named chairman, later retiring in 1980. After leaving May, Babcock was named by President Jimmy Carter and confirmed by the Senate to the United States Postal Service board of governors. He was also vice chairman of the Postal Board when he resigned in 1985.

In 1967 he joined May, in St. Louis, as vp, organizational planning and development and a director of the company, as well as a member of the executive committee of the board of directors. He was elected president in 1972, the first executive with a personnel background to head a major retail organization.

According to May, which was considered a successful, well-run company, mergers and acquisitions had stretched its management. Operational practices and training were inconsistent, and it was difficult to identify, develop and promote talented executives. May saw Babcock as the leader who could unify the company and prepare it for the future.

In 1951, he joined Dayton's Department Store (now Target Corp.) as personnel director. He was named vp of Dayton's in 1953 and became one of three non-family members elected to serve on Dayton's board of directors.

In 1945, he joined Remington Rand Typewriter as assistant personnel director and obtained his first department store personnel position two years later.

He is survived by his second wife, Dianne, and his three children, David, Jr., Michael, and Christine, from his first wife of more than 50 years, Dorothy, who died in 1998.

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