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Habitat for Humanity CEO to Deliver 2021 UM Commencement Address

Jonathan T.M. Reckford, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity International, is set to deliver the University of Mississippi’s 168th Commencement address. The ceremony is slated for 8 a.m. May 1 in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Submitted photo

Jonathan T.M. Reckford, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity International, will deliver the University of Mississippi’s 168th Commencement address May 1 in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Reckford leads the global Christian housing organization that has helped more than 35 million people construct, rehabilitate or preserve their homes. Since 2005, when he took the top leadership position, local Habitat organizations in all 50 states and in more than 70 countries have grown from serving 125,000 individuals annually to helping more than 5.9 million people last year build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter.

The leader plans to share his belief that character, values and purpose offer hope for the future.

“I’m honored to celebrate this special moment with students and their families.” Reckford said. “I hope the questions and insight I pose to graduates will help them consider their futures and their goals – beyond further education and career pursuits.”

The university is honored to have Reckford address the graduating class of 2021, Chancellor Glenn Boyce said.

“Jonathan Reckford is a distinguished leader in the nonprofit and corporate worlds who will bring a savvy global perspective to our 2021 graduates and their families,” Boyce said. “I’m honored and grateful that he will extend our long legacy of distinguished Commencement speakers. 

“As our graduates take the next step in their journey, I know they will be inspired by the keen insight he’s gained as head of a global organization that exemplifies the notion of servant leadership.”

Reckford graduated from the University of North Carolina, where he was a Morehead Scholar. He also received a Henry Luce Scholarship, which enabled him to do marketing work for the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee and coach the Korean rowing team in preparation for the 1988 Summer Olympics.

He earned his Master of Business Administration from Stanford University Graduate School of Business before spending much of his career in the for-profit sector, including executive and managerial positions at Goldman Sachs, Marriott, The Walt Disney Co., and Best Buy. While serving as executive pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church near Minneapolis, he was recruited for the CEO position at Habitat.

Reckford is chair of Leadership 18 and a member of the Freddie Mac Housing Advisory Council. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Urban Steering Committee for the World Economic Forum. 

Named the most influential nonprofit leader in America in 2017 by The NonProfit Times, Reckford is author of “Our Better Angels: Seven Simple Virtues That Will Change Your Life and the World” (St. Martin’s Publishing, 2019). He and his wife, Ashley, have three children and live in Atlanta.

To keep Ole Miss graduates and families safe and in compliance with government orders and public health guidance, all school or college ceremonies will be ticketed events. The university will announce specific ticket allotments, which will vary by school/college based on the number of graduates and the capacity of venues, later. 

Plans call for COVID-19 protocols and procedures to be observed during Commencement 2021, including wearing cloth face coverings and adhering to social distancing. Additionally, each venue will be cleaned between individual ceremonies and venue capacities will be observed.

Morning convocation is set for 8 a.m. May 1. Additional details and information will be shared to the Commencement website. For the complete 2021 Commencement schedule, see https://commencement.olemiss.edu/2021-graduates/.

By Edwin B. Smith

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