Leaving a legacy, NRF’s Kathy Mance retires after 35 years

69 Comments | This entry was posted in @NRF, NRF Foundation

It’s a rare story these days, hearing about someone who has worked for the same company for nearly 35 years. Well, Kathy Mance, Executive Director for NRF’s Foundation, is no ordinary someone.

Kathy Mance, NRF Foundation Executive Director

Anyone who knows Kathy knows her love of animals, her love of cooking, her uncanny ability to remember phone numbers, her endless energy, and – above all – her loyalty and dedication to NRF. Kathy retires from NRF tomorrow, and we couldn’t be more appreciative for all she’s done. During her tenure, she’s been an outstanding colleague, an outstanding friend, and an outstanding mentor. She’s contributed to NRF as a lobbyist, and served as the Vice President of Public Affairs before being named Vice President of the NRF Foundation, NRF’s non-profit education and research arm. She’s led the NRF Foundation since 1994, and in March 2010, she was named Executive Director. Needless to say, she leaves quite a legacy.

She’s led initiatives that took NRF Foundation’s educational and training programs to China and Egypt. She’s responsible for the highly-lauded Intercollegiate Retail Challenge with our partner American Express and the recent launch of NRF’s – and the industry’s first – student association: NRFSA. Her commitment to bringing awareness to the diversity of retail careers, and her dedication to ensuring the industry has a highly-qualified, highly-skilled next generation of workers, has been her passion for the past 17 years.

We’d love to have you share your thoughts and memories of working with Kathy Mance over the past 35 years. We know her impact has reached well beyond NRF’s staff, so please join us in sending her well wishes.

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  1. Posted January 30, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations on a job very well done! Your leadership, can do attitude and persistence contributed mightily to the development and evolution of the NRF Foundation. It was a pleasure working with you and navigating the difficult times and enjoying the good times at the Foundation!
    I wish you every success in this new chapter in your life! Stay in touch.

  2. avatar Steve Pfister
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    As one of the few people in town (or the country perhaps) who remember the American Retail Federation, I recall fondly the ARF welcome you gave me as a newly minted NRMA lobbyist; the fun we had becoming a family with the newly created NRF; and, all of the great times over the past 25 years as we watched NRF become what it is today – in large part due to your commitment to the organization and retail industry. I wish you the very best in your new retirement and future endeavors, which are very well deserved.
    Warmest regards,

  3. avatar Ana Van Engelen
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Your news made it all the out to California! Congratulations on your retirement. I know you will be missed at NRF. I wish you the best in your next adventure.

  4. avatar Marcia Klipsch
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Permalink


    You have left an incredible legacy through your work with the NRF. In particular, you have impacted the lives of our students here at the Lundgren Center at the University of Arizona. Congratulations on your successful career. I’m sure your retirement will be equally as successful. Enjoy!

  5. avatar Jim Baum
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Thanks from us and the small store community. When I return from the Big Show I often write a review of the event. I wrote Matt Shay the following this morning, “Kathy has done a terrific job at NRFF and has shown both empathy and understanding for small store problems.” Without your support for the National Store Store Institute and the white paper, Challenge of the Future”, these efforts would never have happened. Your leadership has left a legacy. With thanks and appreciation from both of us. Best wishes, Carol and Jim Baum

  6. avatar naomi gross
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    It has been both a pleasure and an honor to work with such a wonderful, smart, amazing, energetic and passionate individual, Kathy Mance.

    The enthusiasm Kathy brought to the kick-off for the National Retail Federation Student Association was infectious and resonated with the students on my campus, the Fashion Institute of Technology.

    Among Kathy’s wide array of accomplishments at the NRF, this lasting legacy, helping to initiate, cultivate and nurture the next generation of industry leaders, is one that I will remember always!

    I wish Kathy good wishes on her retirement from the NRF as she embarks on the next leg of her journey. I have no doubt that it will be filled with this same enthusiasm, energy, and passion.

  7. avatar Chrissy Wissinger
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Congratulations Kathy! I always enjoyed working with you and we will certainly miss you. Good luck in what’s next and keep in touch!

  8. Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink


    It’s with great appreciation and much admiration that I wish you well in your retirement. You have inspired many Retail Skill Center educators to focus on excellent customer service as the avenue for our students to secure success in retail careers. Think of all the certificates you’ve signed for our students! Thank you for your continued support of the Community Learning Center over the past 10 years.

    You will be missed both personally and professionally. Enjoy time with your sisters and let me know if you find your way up to Rochester/Greece in the future. Dinner’s on me!

    Mary Sue France

  9. avatar Margie Mance O'Brien
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Hey Kath!

    Who would ever have thought when we rode the National Limited to Washington in the 1950′s to see the Ice Capades with Daddy that you would one day retire from a long and successful career in that glorious city! We were so excited to go to “the big city” , we were on our best behavior and all dressed up in new coats from Rosenbaums in Cumberland! What people in the industry may want to know is that in order for Kathy to shop as a kid she had to be taken 50 miles down the mountain to Cumberland on roads more perilous than on Walton’s Mountain! I got car sick and skipped many trips…Kath was in the front seat each time, pressed between Mum and Daddy with her nose pressed to the windshield anticipating riding up and down the the elevator to check out what was new in each department! There was one for corsets! You would tell the elevator operator what floor to take you to & you felt special.. I am certain that man rolled his eyes and smiled! And he probably made many trips to the floor with shoes! She cut her retail teeth in Rosenbaums!!! Well, Oakland had the HP Store but it was all on one floor…you couldn’t hide!

    During our school years Kathy made history in Oakland by entertaining Daddy’s patients in the Waiting Room with Tommy…they did Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers acts to help the infirm pass the time! That inspired a write-up in the local newspaper in a column called “Oakland Personals”…I was a bit jealous that she had made herself popular enough to be written about in the papers…the writing was on the wall!!!

    Kathy was always the first to reach out and make strangers comfortable and welcome and could work a crowd. After she graduated from St. X and announced her intention to join the convent so she could lead a life of contemplation and follow God’s path to teach the poor babies in Africa and the Subcontinent, Daddy & Mum in their wisdom sent her packing to Stonehill, a college renowned even then for challenging young minds to see options! She never lost that care for those less fortunate, ever, but I think we can all see that she found a better channel for her great potential to teach, to give the proverbial hug to the world, to be a wonderful friend and to make her environment warm and welcoming to all she would meet! What my parents saw in Kath she quickly exhibited, coming home for Thanksgiving her freshman year in the most chic clothes and with shoes galore…Kathy had discovered Filenes!!! The world was hers! She and her gaggle of girlfriends shopped Boston clean and by senior year she was purchasing the most gorgeous shoes in NEW YORK!!! Mecca! Tell me this woman was not born a retailer! I admired her so..she teetered so gracefully on those 3 inch heels!!! Thereafter, she shopped with abandon!

    I won’t go on about her wardrobe, but she has come a long way from the half orange, half yellow shift she made & wore with yellow strap sandals and blond hair to match worn in a flip with bangs to her lashes !!! Her legs began to look longer as her hems went higher. No nun this girl! Kelly Osborne has nothing on Kath…

    Kath was off to Italy after a few years as a fourth grade teacher and a few more as a reading specialist in Frederick County where she left a waft of cologne in the air that I was sensing years later as a nurse in that county…I cared for a few young adults who recalled & loved Miss Mance as one of the best teachers ever. After Italy, Kath took on Washington and conquered it with a plum position as Administrative Assistant to Lloyd Hackler at the ARF…they worked in the beautiful Grange Building behind the Blair House and I think she must have had an ear to the wall as she mastered the ins and outs of hospitality and organizing, and she got to chat with senators and congressmen…a long way from the patients in the Waiting Room but I know she made a few of them laugh as well as she fought for retail issues. Her intelligence and great humor have taken her far…my parents had a hunch about my wonderful big sister and they were right on course. She stayed at it through years of trial and pleasure, while presidents came and went…I think Gerald Ford was president then, no?

    I truly hope her years of work in the retail industry will be recalled and appreciated as much as she is appreciated by her family and friends! Kath, you have arrived…you are adored by your sisters and brothers and a long, noble line of rescued dogs from Immortal Nicholas who chewed your nylons and silk scarves on down! Now you can spend lots of time with them…perhaps you can be the Jane Goodall of dogs now!

    Happy, happy retirement. Spend lots of it with me! I love you!
    Love, Margie

  10. avatar Kelly Gilmore
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Best wishes for your retirement. Thank you for all the passion and dedication you put into the NRF Foundation. You have enriched the lives of so many students that you’ve touched over the years, what a gift. Have fun and enjoy the next chapter in your life-you deserve it!
    Thank you,

  11. avatar Scott Krugman
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Permalink


    It was an absolute pleasure to work alongside you for 15 years. I’ve always marveled at the passion and dedication you brought to your job day in and day out. I was very lucky to be able to count on you as a mentor and friend that really encouraged me in my growth at NRF and beyond.

    The industry has been very fortunate to have you as their fierce advocate for retail careers.

    You are leaving one heck of a legacy and some pretty big shoes to fill.

    I wish you nothing but the best and a very happy retirement. You deserve every moment of it!!!!

  12. avatar Margaret Strong
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Kathy, I will miss all our little chats here at the front desk and I just love how you always timed it right to come out at 5:20pm many evenings to help chat my last 10 minutes away in the office. (I close the desk at 5:30pm). Kathy would come around the corner or through the doors, always asking, “Margaret, what do you know, kiddo?” I will not ever forget how I admired her beautiful Talbot’s leather jacket among her other many items of clothing but when she found out I loved that jacket, Kathy gave me her Talbot’s credit card so that I could find out when and where I could get the same jacket as her’s. She is always generous like that. I love to chat but I know Kathy has me beat. I will miss our conversations about everything and anything, Kathy! I wish you a wonderful new chapter in what I’m sure will be a very interesting and adventurous life!

    Your receptionist,

  13. Posted February 1, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    I can’t believe the day has come that you are retiring! It seemed like it was way out there on the horizon and now it is here. I wish you a joyous and happy retirement filled with new adventures and laughter every day. Know that we will miss you here and hope to see you often in the years ahead. Your friendship and partnership have always been appreciated. Please stay in touch.

  14. avatar Rick Phillips
    Posted February 1, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink


    Wow, what a ride! I will miss our talks, it was always a pleasure to look over at the phone and see a call coming in from you. Please know that you have built something really special at the NRFF and your impact was important to everyone.

    Enjoy this next phase of your life and stay in touch.


  15. avatar Sarah Conrad
    Posted February 1, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    For 12+ years I have been in awe of the leader, the visionary, the cheerleader, the mentor, the champion and the friend you are. To say you have left a legacy is an understatement, for sure. I am so excited for you to have all sorts of new adventures and will keep close in my memory some of ours (cut to us riding on camels in Cairo and climbing up the Pyramids in 100+ degree temperatures), many fun outtings around NYC during the BIG Show, including some outstanding theatre, meals and cocktails, and te list goes on.

    I really appreciate that I was able to get to know you outside the office, and I feel lucky to have had the chance to work so closely with you over these past many years. I fully expect to see you in NYC next January with NO responsibilities other than as a tourist.

    I will miss our daily chats but I know that you will fill your time with all sorts of interesting things and I look forward to hearing all about them!

    All the Best–


  16. avatar Kathy Mannes
    Posted February 1, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Permalink


    From the first day we met and realized we shared similar visions, values, and even names… I knew we were fated to work together. I could not have anticipated all that we were able to accomplish under your leadership. Your drive and your confidence and your faith in your team led us to make our ideas reality. Your sense of humor kept us afloat.

    There are so many memories that I cherish. Meanwhile, I will always wish you the very best. You have done so much for retail, and for each and every one of us who has had the opportunity to get to know you and to be your friend.

    Other Kathy – Mannes

  17. avatar Mark Larson
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink


    Thanks for your many years of service to the retail industry and for all you did to advance the mission of the NRF Foundation. And a special thanks from all of us at KPMG (Ray Kansal, Ali Wampler, and the rest of the team) for helping to make Retail Horizons a success. You were a pleasure to work with – best of luck in the next phase of your life!

    Mark and your friends at KPMG

  18. Posted February 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Wishing you all the best Kathy. Working together with you has been a wonderful experience. You will be greatly missed.

  19. avatar Barbara Dunn
    Posted March 19, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    To Kathy,

    Retired! What a pleasure it was to work with you. Brains, creativity, professionalism, ethics, kindness, thoughtfulness and great shoes – you inspired people to do their best and you made it fun. Working with you and Kathy Mannes was a treat.

    Best wishes for a sweet retirement.

    Barbara Dunn

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