Jonathan Reckford, C.E.O., Leads Habitat for Humanity

New York, N.Y. I met Jonathan T.M. Reckford this fall when Habitat for Humanity International (LINK) invited several foundations, including the Ford Foundation and our own foundation to meet with him and hear about Habitat’s good works around the workd – and get involved.

cwp-story4Former first lady Rosalynn Carter (right) and Habitat for Humanity International
C.E.O. Jonathan Reckford greet home partner Angel Meza, a single mother of four,
during the third day of the 2013 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project.
Photo: Habitat for Humanity International/Chris Haugen.

It was inspirational to hear his presentation. And learn that he had been a Henry Luce Scholar for one year to Asia. With professional experience ranging from Wall Street to the local church, Jonathan brings to his role as chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity International robust leadership skills and a passion for service.

Jonathan was influenced greatly by his parents, who were active in the civil rights struggle in North Carolina, and his grandmother, New Jersey congresswoman Millicent Fenwick, who was widely known for her commitment to justice issues. She encouraged him to account for the lost and left out in the world.

A native of North Carolina, Jonathan graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a Morehead scholar. He earned an MBA with a certificate in public and nonprofit management from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

Dallas, Texas / 10 MBJimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, Fort Worth, Texas – 2014.
Photo: Habitat for Humanity.

After undergraduate school, he began his career as a financial analyst in 1984 at Goldman, Sachs & Co. in New York. He found the work professionally stimulating, but not satisfying. He also struggled each day he walked by scores of homeless people on his way to the office — where he would focus on making megadeals.

After leaving Wall Street, he sought to regain some perspective and received the Henry Luce Scholarship, a program designed to give future leaders the opportunity to live and work for a year in Asia. He worked for the Olympic Organizing Committee, preparing for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.

Although he had always called himself a Christian, he had drifted and faith played no central role in his life. In Korea, he began meeting weekly with pastor and ethics professor Jim Peterson who helped him with the tension of fully integrating his heart and his mind. That exploration led to his making a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in March of 1987, and “nothing has been the same since,” Jonathan says.

USGA-13-27345-EM.jpgJonathan T.M. Reckford, C.E.O., Habitat for Humanity International.
Habitat for Humanity International.

Deeply interested in business strategy and how organizations grow, he returned to the United States to work on his MBA degree. One professor’s words made a lasting impression on him: “The same skills that will make you a success in the for-profit world also are desperately needed in the not-for-profit world.”

With that idea planted in his mind and with a goal of being a positive influence in the business world, he developed strong leadership skills and gained valuable experience working in executive and managerial positions at companies such as Marriott, The Walt Disney Company, Musicland and Best Buy.

After helping integrate Musicland into Best Buy, it was clear there was no place for him in the new organization. He left with a generous walkaway package, but also was limited by a clause that did not allow him to take a new job for 18 months. Being forced to take the time off allowed him to go on a mission trip to India, where a life-changing event persuaded him to devote the rest of his life to helping the world’s poor.

Union Beach, New Jersey / 10 MBJimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, Fort Worth, Texas – 2014.
Habitat for Humanity.

The path from India to Habitat was neither immediate nor direct and led him first to serve as the executive pastor at the 4,300-member Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, Minnesota. His friends called that decision career suicide, but Jonathan looks back on the time at the church — and at every other position—as crucial steps in preparing him to lead Habitat for Humanity.

He was unanimously elected chief executive officer by the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity International in August 2005.

He is the author of “Creating a Habitat for Humanity: No Hands but Yours,” which is framed around the messages of justice, mercy and humility found in Micah 6:8.

22Habitat for Humanity C.E.O. Jonathan Reckford helps raise the wall
for the organization. Photo:
Habitat for Humanity International.

Jonathan is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the board of InterAction. He and his wife, Ashley, have three children and live in Atlanta.

Habitat for Humanity International’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Thought leader and global citizen Jonathan T.M. Reckford is aptly qualified to lead the fulfillment of this critical vision.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Anchored by the conviction that housing provides a path out of poverty, since 1976 Habitat has helped more than five million people through home construction, rehabilitation and repairs and by increasing access to improved shelter through products and services. Habitat also advocates to improve access to decent and affordable shelter and offers a variety of housing support services that enable families with limited means to make needed improvements on their homes as their time and resources allow. As a nonprofit Christian housing organization, Habitat works in more than 70 countries and welcomes people of all races, religions and nationalities to partner in its mission. To learn more, donate or volunteer, visit

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About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

View all posts by Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce ( writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (, he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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