Growing up in the 1950s in a segregated neighborhood on Chicago’s southside, Aaron Williams (MBA ’73) was influenced early on to consider possibilities beyond his suburban neighborhood and even the borders of the U.S. The path he would ultimately travel has created connections across cultures and made a tremendous impact across international boundaries.
Aaron was teaching high school in Chicago when a colleague inspired him to join the Peace Corps in 1967. As the only Black man in a class of 70 recruits, Williams continued blazing a trail in a distinguished career in and out of public service.
After earning an MBA from the Wisconsin School of Business in 1973, Aaron honed leadership skills in the private sector at two Fortune 500 companies. Aaron pivoted back to the public service and assumed leadership roles across some of our nation’s critical agencies for furthering global cooperation, development, and peace. He served as a senior official at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where he reached the rank of career minister in the Senior Foreign Service. Appointed by President Barack Obama, Aaron served as director of the U.S. Peace Corps from 2009–2012. His time with these organizations included historic milestones, becoming the first African American to serve as USAID’s executive secretary, and the first African American male to be appointed to lead the Peace Corps.
Aaron currently serves on the International Advisory Board at UW–Madison and has previously served on the diversity board for the Wisconsin School of Business.