Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz presents during the Starbucks 2016 Investor Day meeting, in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016.
"Howard proved that a company could be more successful and profitable by elevating humanity", said Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments and a Starbucks director who will become vice chairwoman when Mr. Schultz steps down.
Schultz started at Starbucks in 1982 and served as chief executive from 1987 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2017.
Under Schultz's leadership, Starbucks has delivered a 21,000% gain in the value of its stock price since its initial public offering in 1992.
"We realize that four hours of training is not going to solve racial inequity in America", Schultz told CNN's Poppy Harlow last week.
This year, Starbucks was named the fifth most admired company in the world by Fortune, marking the 16th year in a row that the company has appeared on the global list.
His last day at Starbucks will be June 26, 2018.
He became Starbucks' executive chairman a year ago, handing the chief executive job to Kevin Johnson at a time when growth in Starbucks' dominant US market was showing signs of cooling.
Myron Ullman, the former chairman and CEO of retail giant J.C. Penney, will replace Schultz as executive chairman of the board. And now Shultz is finally leaving this other leading position.
"Starbucks changed the way millions of people drink coffee, this is true, but we also changed people's lives in communities around the world for the better", Schultz said in his letter. "That must, and will, continue on my watch". "It is emotional. More emotional than I thought it would be".
Under Mr. Schultz, the company's financial success has been enormous.
He also credited the company with "balancing profitability and social conscience, compassion and rigor, and love and responsibility".
And in a speech to Starbucks shareholders in 2016, Schultz said he feared that the opportunities that allowed him to achieve his American Dream - he grew up in subsidized housing in Brooklyn - have escaped the grasp of too many people.