Gray to retire from Hormel Foundation

Published 11:10 am Thursday, November 20, 2014

John Gray, with The Hormel Foundation, has been active in the community and has been with the Foundation for a number of years. -- Herald file photo

John Gray, with The Hormel Foundation, has been active in the community and has been with the Foundation for a number of years. — Herald file photo

Sheri Dankert to take his place

One of the busiest men in Austin is due to slow down a bit next April.

John Gray will retire as the assistant secretary-treasurer for the Hormel Foundation on April 30. He’ll be replaced by Sheri Dankert, who is currently a regional controller for six Mayo Clinic Health System sites and the chief financial officer of the Austin and Albert Lea medical center.

Gray, 68, said he will miss the organization he’s worked with for nearly 27 years.

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“It’s so rewarding to work for an organization that does so much for the community,” Gray said.

Technically, Gray is already retired after 40 years with Hormel Foods Corp., but he’s worked full time at the Foundation for several years.

Gray started full time in Hormel Foods Corp’s accounting department in 1970 and retired as cash manager in 2010.

He started at the Foundation in 1988, working both jobs for several years, which he admitted was a bit time consuming as the duties increased and his role at the Foundation transitioned to a full-time post. While he put in several hours at the two jobs, Gray said he liked both.

“It got to be pretty strenuous,” he said. “I enjoyed both jobs and the people I worked with.”

Gray has been in a key position to see the Foundation grow and change over the years. Along with the Foundation’s prominent role with Vision 2020 and the Hormel Institute, it also gives annual initiative fund grants of more than $5 million, including $6.1 million in grants last year.

“We’ve absolutely become more public since the turn of the century,” Gray said.



Now, Dankert is looking forward to starting at the Foundation, having known Executive Director Gary Ray and Gray for many years.

“The Foundation does wonderful things in this community, and I’m just really excited to be a part of that,” she said.

Dankert moved to Austin in 1989 and joined what is now Mayo Clinic Health System – Albert Lea and Austin in 1995. She’s been in her current role since 2007.

Dankert will leave Mayo and start with the Foundation on Dec. 8 and will have plenty of time to get acclimated in her new role by working alongside her predecessor.

“It will be a big change,” she said. “We’ve gone through lots of changes [at Mayo], and I’ve played a number of roles.”

Dankert’s husband, Tom, is the city of Austin’s finance director. The couple has two children: Erin, 18, and Jack, 15.

Dankert is glad she’ll get a chance to learn from Gray for several months.

“It will be great to have someone to mentor me along,” she said.

For Gray, his main reason to retire is to spend more time with his wife, Terry, who is facing health issues. While the two will remain in Austin, they hope to travel in their retirement.

Along with his job at the Foundation, Gray is known for his involvement with several Austin organizations.

He is on the Vision 2020 steering committee, chairs Vision 2020’s Gateway to Austin Committee and is active with the Salvation Army, the Arc of Mower County, the United Way of Mower County, the Karl Potach Foundation and other organizations.

He plans to continue volunteering after his retirement.