Aetna president Mark Bertolini honored with Distinguished Alumnus Award

Mark Bertolini, president of the health insurance company Aetna, received the 2010 Distinguished Alumnus Award on May 5 during the Wayne State University School of Business Administration annual recognition program and scholarship dinner at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

“We are proud to recognize Mark Bertolini for the accomplishments he has made throughout his career in the health insurance industry,” said David Williams, dean of the business school. “We also appreciate this opportunity to reacquaint him with the campus and introduce him to our high-achieving scholarship recipients.”

In addition to the alumnus award, the school granted more than $300,000 in scholarships to nearly 130 outstanding business students at the awards event.

During his acceptance speech, Betrolini offered advice that encouraged the scholarship recipients to strive for success.

“Learn all those soft skills that you haven’t learned here” he said. “They don’t teach you that in business school anywhere. But it’s very important, and it’s hard to learn it on the job.”

Bertolini recommended that the students find a mentor or network to teach them the interpersonal skills that are not taught from textbooks. He also stressed the importance of discovering a career that they enjoy and can do well.

“When you get up in the morning, if you can look in the mirror and say that I’m going off to do something that I do well that I really like to do, you can’t help but be successful,” he said.

Like many Wayne State students, Bertolini didn’t follow a “traditional” path to his undergraduate degree.

He worked full-time while also attempting full-time studies. His photographic memory helped him become an “A” student in high school, but when he entered Wayne State he found that this gift would be less of an asset in college. He struggled through his undergraduate experience until he learned that he would have to change his study habits in order to earn his degree.

Looking back, he laughs as he explains that it took eight years to complete his degree. But in the end, he found it was worth it.

“The education I received at Wayne State University is probably the single most important factor in my success as an executive,” Bertolini said.

He completed his bachelor’s in business at Wayne State in 1982 and later earned his MBA at Cornell University.

As president of Aetna, Bertolini oversees business operations across Aetna’s broad range of health care products and services. He joined the Hartford, Connecticut-based Fortune 100 company in 2003 and held various upper management positions until he was named president in 2007. Prior to Aetna, Bertolini served in senior level positions at Cigna HealthCare, NYLCare Health Plans and SelectCare, Inc.

Learn more about Bertolini’s career on an upcoming episode of the local television show “Leaders on Leadership,” an interview format program co-produced by Wayne State University’s School of Business Administration and Detroit Public Television. The episode is expected to air in July and afterward can also be viewed at

View photos from the program.

Below, view Bertolini’s acceptance speech at the awards program:

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