A pioneering Corporate Executive, visionary youth advocate, dedicated board member, and best-selling author, Steve Pemberton has always made equality, access, and opportunity pillars of his professional and personal life. He currently serves as Chief Diversity Officer and Divisional Vice President for Walgreens, one of America’s oldest and most successful companies. He is the first person in the company’s 113 year history to hold this position.
This was not the path envisioned for him. At one and half years old, he was described by a caretaker as a boy who would not have ‘a chance in the world.’ But Steve would not accept this prediction, defying seemingly impossible odds. His relentless march to adulthood is powerfully captured in his memoir, A Chance in the World (Harper Collins, 2012). His book describes the extraordinary challenges of navigating a foster care system that had forgotten about him while trying to solve the mystery of his identity and one day, triumphantly return home. Steve is aided in his quest by the kindnesses of several mysterious strangers who are unaware that their gifts are giving him the resolve to carry on and fulfill his purpose. These benefactors sit at the core of Steve’s powerful talks and central message; that perhaps you can choose your family after all. Read more
That belief is what defines Steve’s life mission today. He currently serves on several boards including The Home for Little Wanderers and UCAN to provide guidance and inspiration to the most vulnerable in our nation. The Pemberton Fund For The Future has been established in his name at The Home For Little Wanderers to assist children aging out of the foster care system. His efforts have earned him national recognition, including the 2014 coveted Trumpet Award, and the 2014 Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation Helping Hand Award.
Steve is a proud graduate of Boston College. A Massachusetts native, he now resides in Chicago with his wife Tonya and their three children, Quinn, Vaughn and Kennedy.
“Teens from the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s Black and Latino Achievers lined up, even elbowed each other, to get a chance talk to Steve Pemberton – the role model who has it all – a successful career, access to Capitol Hill, a beautiful family. Well, he has it all now. And that’s just what these teenagers wanted to find out about. How did he – and how can they – overcome significant barriers in their lives?
Steve inspired us to look beyond a person’s skin color and background, urged us to support worthwhile organizations that help those at-risk and under served, and totally charmed us with his easy going style and Boston accent. Steve humbled us with his childhood experiences and urged us to persevere through difficult times and reach out to those who help us along the way; in a few words, he cajoled us to take our chance in the world.
The audience – teens and adults alike – hung on Steve’s every word. Throughout the reception and afterward, they came back again and again, to ask a question and try to get at the essence of Steve.”
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