Jack Fontaine embodies the true North Dakota spirit of hard work and determination. Growing up in a family of six from Grand Forks, ND, Jack enjoyed working on the farm each summer as well as working for numerous retail stores. After graduation Jack decided to attend the University of North Dakota. When talking to Jack about why he chose to go to UND he spoke very fondly of his mother. “She is the reason I am who I am,” Jack said. His mother was the only one in the family to go beyond the eighth grade and completed two years of college. She said, “Jackie, you are going to go to college.” Jack’s wife Karen (Hausauer) also indicated that college was very important and since Grand Forks was their hometown, it made sense to go to college right here in the community he loved.
While attending college Jack joined the Army Reserve and earned $28 a meeting, which he attended once a week and helped pay bills. When the reserve got activated, Jack volunteered to go on active duty. It was a 21 month program, and when it was completed Jack received the GI Bill. Jack returned to UND to finish his degree in 1958 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a minor in Marketing.
After graduation, Jack thought he would continue on the retail track. He moved to St. Paul, MN, to work for Montgomery Ward as a junior merchandiser earning $425 a month. “This is where I learned the basic map about retailing,” said Jack.
Jack later went to an interview at Dayton’s for a buyer position. He was the second choice for the position. Soon after, Jack got a call from the HR person that interviewed him at Dayton’s who had recently started working for a new company called Target. Dayton’s was the parent company to Target, which was designed to be a discount retail shopping operation. Jack went home to tell his wife Karen that he was going to work in Roseville, MN, for a new store opening called Target. In 1962, Jack joined the original team to launch the first Target stores in Roseville, Crystal, St. Louis Park, and Duluth, Minnesota.
Jack continued to hold numerous positions with Target. One of the honors Jack had was to open a new store in Fridley, MN, which was the first store he started from the ground up. A month after this store opened Jack was asked to go to St. Louis to open that entire market with multiple locations. Jack became the District Manager for St. Louis and only two years later was promoted to Regional Vice President for Target. He moved to Dallas to oversee 20 stores, all of which were new to his region. At this time Jack was not even 35 years old. Jack was the only executive that was not located in the Twin Cities so he traveled back and forth to Minneapolis for all of his executive meetings.
In 1972 Jack moved back to Minneapolis to become the Senior Vice President of Store Operations. He held this position until 1976 when he transitioned into the Senior Vice President of Property Development. With this position he oversaw the development of over 400 new stores and new markets. Jack said he enjoyed this role because he had a personal interest in building projects.
Jack had a very successful 29 year career with Target Corporation from 1962 – 1991. He spent most of his career managing the exceptional employees that were responsible for the significant growth of the Target stores across the country.
His college education played a strong role in his career as he and Karen have emphasized the importance of a college education to their children and grandchildren. Jack and Karen have been proud supporters of higher education at the University of North Dakota and have generously been giving back to support the College of Business and Public Administration for over 40 years. It is only fitting that they established the JACK AND KAREN FONTAINE FAMILY ENDOWMENT which provides support to students through scholarships.
Most recently the North Dakota Higher Education Challenge Grant became available to investors, like the Fontaines, to receive a dollar match for every two dollars invested in scholarship endowments. It is amazing to hear the stories of our alumni and the outstanding achievements they have made. We are grateful for the generosity of so many of our alumni that continue to provide scholarship support for the next generation of industry leaders and entrepreneurs!