Former Walgreen Co. CEO 'Cork' Walgreen III dies
Charles R. "Cork" Walgreen III, former president, CEO, chairman of the board and chairman emeritus of the Deerfield-based drugstore chain Walgreen Co., died Monday at his home in Lake Forest. He was 80.
The cause of death was not released, said Walgreens spokesman Michael Polzin.
Walgreen III was the grandson of Charles R. Walgreen Sr., who founded the 115-year-old pharmacy retailer that now is included in the retail pharmacy USA division of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.
Born in Chicago on Nov. 11, 1935, he was the son of Mary Ann Leslie and Charles R. Walgreen Jr., and the third Walgreen to lead the company.
Last year, Walgreen III attended the fall luncheon of the Walgreen Alumni Association as a special guest in recognition of his 80th birthday. Among the crowd of several hundred people was Alex Gourlay, co-chief operating officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance.
"As I listened to the tributes and spoke with Mr. Walgreen, I was struck again by how he led our company -- with a great singular focus on his customers, with humility and a very clear sense that Walgreens needed to stand for value and care in the community," Gourlay said in a statement. "He made courageous decisions in that straightforward framework and built the Walgreens we know today as customers, employees and partners. I counted myself grateful whenever I was fortunate enough to spend time with him and his family."
Walgreen III had an early start in 1952 on his 58-year Walgreens career. He started as a stock boy after school and on vacations. He later entered the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he earned his bachelor's degree in pharmacy in 1958. He returned to Walgreens in his first professional capacity in 1959 as a pharmacist at the store at 7510 N. Western Ave. in Chicago.
In 1963, he was named administrative assistant to the vice president of operations and was elected that year to the company's board of directors. He gradually moved up in a series of positions that included district manager from 1965 to 1966, Western regional director and then Midwestern regional director from 1966 to 1968, before being named vice president in 1968, president in 1969, president and chief executive officer in 1971 and chairman and CEO in 1976.
Walgreen III served as Walgreens chief executive officer until his retirement in January 1998. He remained chairman until August 1999, then retired from the board as chairman emeritus in 2010.
In addition to his Walgreens responsibilities, Walgreen III served a number of industry, civic and professional organizations, including as a member of the American Pharmaceutical Association, a director and chairman of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, a director of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and Junior Achievement of Chicago, and a member of many other charitable and civic organizations.
In 2004, he donated $2 million to his alma mater, the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy, to establish a professorship focusing on researching the socioeconomics of health care policies, regulations and ethics.
Walgreen III is survived by his wife, Kathleen B. Walgreen; sons Charles Richard Walgreen, Kevin Walgreen (a Walgreen Co. senior vice president), Leslie Ray Walgreen, Chris Patrick Walgreen, Tad Alexander Walgreen and Carl Allen Jr.; daughters Brooke Julia Walgreen and Jorie Allen Grassie; 19 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. He was preceded in death by his parents, Charles R. Walgreen Jr. and Mary Ann Leslie Walgreen, and his son, Tad Alexander Walgreen Sr. He is also survived by his sister, Leslie Ann Walgreen Pratt; brother, James Alan Walgreen; and several nieces and nephews.
Services will be private.
• Daily Herald Business Writer Anna Marie Kukec contributed to this report.