University of Minnesota awards Laysha Ward an honorary degree for public service

Laysha Ward

On May 18, the University of Minnesota will confer an Honorary Doctorate of Laws on Laysha Ward, executive vice president and chief external engagement officer for Target. The prestigious award, which is given in recognition of public service, will be presented by Vice Chair of the Board of Regents Ken Powell at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ commencement ceremony. Ward will also deliver the commencement address.

“In her 28 years with Target, Laysha’s name has become synonymous with Target’s industry-leading commitment to the economic, social and environmental well-being of the communities in which it operates,” Humphrey School Dean Laura Bloomberg said. “Her passion for lifting up others is evident through her tireless efforts to ensure women and people of color and other underrepresented communities have equal and equitable opportunities for advancement across all sectors.”

Ward was nominated by Humphrey School Senior Fellow Arthur Rolnick. Several national and local leaders joined him in putting forward Ward’s name for consideration, including Dean Bloomberg, civil rights icons Vernon Jordan and Josie Robinson Johnson, and Danielle Grant, the president and CEO of Achieve Minneapolis, where Ward volunteers as a graduation coach for high school students.

In her letter of support, Grant wrote how Ward’s impact extends beyond the students she mentors to setting an example for those around her. “I am continually inspired by Ms. Ward’s service to young people through [Achieve Minneapolis]. Being a graduation coach is clearly a huge commitment for a busy executive, but her dedication raises the bar for other business leaders, and for colleagues within her own company. At the moment, thanks to her example, we have more graduation coaches from Target than from any other business.”

Johnson offered this summary of Ward’s commitment to lifting up others: “Our children and society need models and examples of positive outcomes through hard work, education and commitment. In my judgment, Laysha Ward exemplifies those qualities, alongside deep understanding, listening, persistence and patience. She has made an enormous difference in our world.”

Ward earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Indiana University and her master’s degree from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. She began her career with Target Corporation in 1991. During her time with the company, she has been instrumental in the company’s efforts to connect with communities and give back through philanthropy and volunteerism.

This included investing more than $1 billion in support of education, supporting initiatives to increase graduation rates, and nurturing relationships with stakeholders across sectors in order to drive positive community impact.  

Outside of her work at Target, Ward has served at the request of multiple United States presidents on initiatives, task forces and boards, including serving as a board member for the Corporation for National and Community Service under President George W. Bush and as board chair under President Barack Obama, while also on the White House Council on Community Solutions.

The Humphrey School will hold commencement on Saturday, May 18, at 3 p.m. at Ted Mann Concert Hall on the University of Minnesota’s West Bank.

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