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Steve Pemberton ’89, Hon. '15

b.a., political science
m.s., sociology
chief human resources officer, workhuman


Steve Pemberton is vice president, diversity and inclusion for Walgreens Boots Alliance, the first global pharmacy-led, health and well-being enterprise in the world, employing 370,000 people in 25 countries. Prior to that he served as chief diversity officer for Walgreens, becoming the first person to hold that position in the historic company’s 114 year history. He is widely considered a subject matter expert on matters of diversity and inclusion and its importance to the sustainability of organizations and the communities they serve.

Steve is responsible for overseeing the company’s global efforts to create and maintain a diverse and inclusive environment that reflects the culture, people, and perspectives of the nations in which it does business while mirroring its current and future customers and communities. He and his team are specifically focused on the following areas: strategic diversity management, global diversity councils and business resource groups, disability initiatives, supplier diversity, and compliance objectives. He has also served as a valued internal consultant to Marketing, Community Affairs, Government Affairs, Legal and Merchandising functions.

Under Steve’s leadership, Walgreens reached record levels of performance on nearly every measure of diversity and inclusion from representation to supplier diversity spend. An extended part of his responsibilities has been to serve as a public ambassador for the company on matters of employing people with disabilities. In that capacity, he has frequently represented Walgreens’ employment model at the White House and on Capitol Hill. In 2015, he was appointed by United States Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez to serve on an Advisory Committee for the Competitive Integrated Employment of People with Disabilities.

Prior to assuming his role at Walgreens, Steve was chief diversity officer and vice president of diversity and inclusion at, the leading global online careers property where he had end-to-end management responsibilities for the Diversity and Inclusion business unit which focused on helping employers diversify their workforce. It was during his tenure at Monster that Steve coined the term ‘Next Practices’, to reflect the need for a stronger alignment between diversity and inclusion and driving shareholder value.

One of America’s most inspiring executives, he brings a deep personal understanding of human differences and the human experience to his position. Steve was a ward of the state for much of his childhood, an experience he chronicled in his 2012 best-selling memoir, A Chance in the World (Thomas Nelson). Steve’s extraordinary life journey, featured in People Magazine, has been translated into multiple languages and continues to inspire audiences across the world; his tireless advocacy for the disenfranchised has earned him national recognition including from the Trumpet Foundation. His dedication to public service and personal and professional achievement have also earned him honorary doctorates from Winston-Salem State University (2014) and Boston College (2015). In 2015, Steve was awarded the prestigious Horizon Award by the United States Congress, presented to individuals from the private sectors who have contributed to expanding opportunities for all Americans through their own personal contributions, and who have set exceptional examples for young people through their successes in life.

Steve resides on several non-profit boards including UCAN, The Home for Little Wanderers, Bernie’s Book Bank and The United States Business Leadership Network. He and his wife Tonya are the proud parents of three children.