For Aaron Radelet, '98, his personal journey began at Grand Valley

As chief communications officer for Walgreens Boots Alliance, Aaron Radelet and his team are responsible for the internal and external messaging of a Fortune 500 company that operates in 25 nations and employs more than 450,000 workers.

But, Radelet said it’s his years at Grand Valley that have sustained him through his climb up the corporate communications ranks from AOL Time Warner to Sprint Nextel to Hilton and now WBA.

Radelet returned to his alma mater September 16 for the Meijer Lecture Series presented by the Meijer Honors College, conveying to the current generation of Lakers how those lessons have molded his perspective. 

“A lot of these insights come from connecting the dots across many different subject areas,” said Radelet. “In fact, that’s what Grand Valley tries to do with your education. 

“They don’t want to just teach you one subject matter. They instead want to teach you liberal arts to approach your studies in a way you learn about a lot of different ideas, and then you try to fit them together in a lot of different combinations."

Radelet majored in advertising and public relations and graduated from Grand Valley in 1998.

Aaron Radelet speaks with students during Meijer Lecture Series
Aaron Radelet, '98, spoke with students September 16 as part of the Meijer Lecture Series.
Image credit - Valerie Hendrickson

There were several pivotal moments for Radelet that helped set him on his path — his time on Student Senate, or as a resident advisor in Pew Living Center, or participating in Alternative Spring Break.

“In Student Senate, I learned something about the art of diplomacy, then as an RA, I learned more about how to relate to the lives of my residents,” said Radelet. 

“During Alternative Spring Break, I learned the importance of connecting with communities and not just donating money.”

His time at Grand Valley was a defining moment for Radelet, but no act defined him more he said than his participation in LGBT causes and coming out to family and friends. 

“If I were to write a self help book, it would be about coming out of your closets, and that perspective is particularly informed by being gay,” said Radelet.

“Regardless of orientation or identity, everyone has closets, parts of their lives that hold them back and limit their potential. My advice is to be authentic.”

Audience members listen to Aaron Radelet speak during Meijer Lecture Series
Meijer Honors College Director Roger Gilles, right, and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, the Meijer Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, center, listen to Aaron Radelet's address during the Meijer Lecture Series
Image credit - Valerie Hendrickson
Aaron Radelet speaks with students during Meijer Lecture Series
Aaron Radelet addresses students during the Meijer Lecture Series on September 16.
Image credit - Valerie Henderickson
Students listening during Meijer Lecture Series
Students listen to Aaron Radelet during the Meijer Lecture Series.
Image credit - Valerie Hendrickson

Now, years later at WBA, he fronts a team responsible for communication strategies which reach around the globe and deliver comforting, reassuring messages, particularly during a pandemic.

PRWeek, the trade publication covering the public relations industry, recently presented Radelet with its “Global Professional: In-House” award for 2021 and named him to its Power List 2021 of “the 50 most influential communicators.”

Walgreens’ vaccine rollout, its recent selection of Rosalind “Roz” Brewer as CEO (the only Black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company), and his strategies landed Walgreen’s on Time’s “100 Most Influential Companies," list.

“What I’m more proud of is that I’ve been able to create balance where I can volunteer more in the community, and I have a little bit more means to give money,” said Radelet.

“I’ve tried to make sure I didn’t become that stereotype of the corporate executive who doesn’t continuously care about the community and is still involved in the community.”


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