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My Story Started at GRCC: Drew Allbritten helped U.S. presidents during a long career of service

April 17, 2023, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The Hon. Drew William Allbritten was one of the nation’s first work study students at Grand Rapids Junior College, setting the stage for a career of service that included posts serving President Ronald Reagan and others.

Start at Grand Rapids Community College and go anywhere. Every former student has a story to tell about how GRCC gave them the education and opportunity to be successful.

Allbritten graduated from GRJC in 1967 and was mentored by Dean of Students Donald Black, and President Richard Calkins. 

Allbritten accredits his academic and professional confidence to his time at GRJC. He was elected as Student Government president, and was an officer in the International Relations Club. 

“This was an eye-opener for me,” Allbritten said. “ I began to understand the relevance between my academics, career aspirations, and community/civic responsibility. I also was able to establish lifelong relationships which served me well.”

Allbritten continued his education and received his bachelor's degree at Western Michigan University, as well as a master’s degree and a doctorate degree. Early in his career, he wanted to pay it forward for his experience at GRJC and was an aspiring administrator at Alpena Community College, Glen Oaks Community College, and GRJC. 

Allbritten was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1978, serving until 1980. He authored the Child Passenger Safety Act, a seat belt bill that became a national model and within a decade saved over 125,000 lives, according to a WMU profile.

He then became a state and national public policy leader. He was appointed by Reagan to a post for Intergovernmental Relations at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development between 1981 and 1987. 

He also advised administration officials for several other presidents, and worked on several important national initiatives. He helped develop President George H.W. Bush's National Institute for Literacy in 1992 as the Coalition of Lifelong Learning chair. He then helped develop President Bill Clinton’s School-to-Work program in 1994 and Welfare-to-Work program in 1995 as the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education executive director.

He served as executive director of the Georgia Association of Educators from 1998 to 2002, overseeing its restructuring and actively participating in political issues related to education in Georgia.

Allbrittenin 2003  became executive director of the Council for Exceptional Children, a special education association dedicated to serving professionals, organizations, and parents of children with a variety of physical, mental, and emotional challenges.

Allbritten became a senior fellow for Public Administration at the University of the South Pacific and also a visiting professor at Fiji National University before retiring. He now resides in Occitanie, France and helps others advance in their careers. 

Allbritten says there was no magic or secrets to his success. 

“I knew that coming from humble beginnings, I had to work harder, smarter and longer than others,” he said. “Early on, I developed a mutually beneficial support network of kindred spirits who also cared about human rights and equal opportunity.  I knew that being ethical could make you a professional target.” 

He specifically recalls receiving the Outstanding Service Medallion in 2021 from AAACE . The medallion honored over five decades Allbritten spent advancing the adult learning profession in the United States and internationally as well. 

Allbritten encourages current students to be resilient and try difficult things. 

“GRCC is an opportunity for all to be academically prepared to compete in the global marketplace,” he said. “If your time and obligations permit, get involved in some extra-curricular opportunities to begin developing networks for your future (be sure to develop relationships outside your usual ones).”  

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