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A Tribute to Don Soderquist

Long-time Walmart executive Donald Soderquist, known as the “Keeper of the Culture,” passed away Thursday, July 21, due to complications from heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He was 82.

April 6, 2018

2 Min Read

Retail industry veteran and people person passes.

Long-time Walmart executive Donald Soderquist, known as the “Keeper of the Culture,” passed away Thursday, July 21, due to complications from heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He was 82.

When I first met Don Soderquist at Wal-Mart’s annual meeting in 1986, I was impressed by his personable and friendly style. And it was this likable persona that complemented not only founder Sam Walton’s personality, but also that of the other top Wal-Mart executives. Soderquist’s style also made him a popular person among the thousands of company associates as well as an influential and motivational speaker. These attributes along with his business acumen also defined his legacy.

Soderquist joined Walmart in 1980 as executive vice president of administration and logistics and worked closely with Mr. Sam. After becoming the company’s vice chairman and chief operating officer, Soderquist led the company through a period of significant growth from 1988 to 1999, increasing its revenue from $1 billion to more than $200 billion, before retiring in 2000.

I interviewed and talked with Soderquist numerous times throughout his tenure with Wal-Mart and my position as editor of Retailing Today/Discount Store News. He was always pleasant, consistent and honest. He was highly respected for his dedication to people, his passion for retailing and his vision for Walmart. Soderquist embraced and extolled the culture and principles of Walmart more than other Walmart executive over the decades.

Soderquist later established The Soderquist Center for Leadership and Ethics in Northwest Arkansas to provide value-focused development training to future generations of leaders. In 2005, he wrote The Walmart Way to help others apply the lessons that made Walmart successful to their own lives and careers.

“If vision, hard work, integrity, focus on the customer, passion for excellence and having fun at work is luck, then we indeed, were some of the luckiest people alive,” Soderquist wrote in the introduction of his book.

Soderqusit was also involved in multiple charities and served on several corporate boards.

Soderquist was inducted into the Retailing Hall of Fame in 1996 the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame in 2010.

“Don became known as the ‘Keeper of the Culture’ after our founder, Sam Walton, passed away because he not only helped define our values–he lived out our culture and spoke passionately about it year after year,” said Doug McMillon, president and chief executive officer, Walmart, in an e-mail to Walmart employees. “He truly believed that ordinary people could do extraordinary things when they worked together, and he taught the beliefs and values that supported that conviction for the rest of his life.”

Soderquist is survived by his wife, Jo Soderquist, and four children and their families.

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