Jerry Moe to Deliver Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School’s Commencement Address

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
5 min readMar 13, 2024


Jerry Moe

Almost three years after retiring from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, beloved and internationally renowned children’s counselor Jerry Moe will return to deliver the 25th Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School commencement address on April 19.

Moe is an exceptional speaker who routinely moves audiences to tears with his deep empathy and passion for young children in families facing addiction. He will thank the counseling graduates for choosing a high-demand profession helping people break through and overcome substance use and mental health issues. And he will remind them not to forget about the kids.

“Jerry Moe is a legend in our field — recognized both for the incredible Children’s Program he built at Hazelden Betty Ford and for his tireless advocacy all over the world for kids who — as he says — are too often the first hurt by a parent’s substance use and the last helped,” said Kevin Doyle, EdD, president and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School. “We need more services throughout the behavioral health system for young children, and Jerry will lift up that priority for our graduates as they head out into the world to become the next generation of leaders in this field.”

In preparation for his remarks, Moe says he’s been “thinking a lot about what Jerry at 69 would tell 22-year-old Jerry embarking on a counseling career” and is excited to “come back and be with my Hazelden Betty Ford family.”

The invitation-only commencement will be held at the Hazelden Betty Ford campus in Center City, Minn., which is home to both the Graduate School and the treatment center that topped Newsweek’s latest ranking of America’s Best Addiction Treatment Centers. In addition to being a celebration of the school’s 25th anniversary, commencement will be one of several events throughout the year marking Hazelden Betty Ford’s 75th year. In fact, the ceremony will take place just two days before the anniversary of the day — April 21 — when the nonprofit served its first patient in 1949.

“We are thrilled that Jerry will join us to celebrate our graduates’ accomplishments and to share his encouragement for the important and meaningful work ahead of them as they become stewards of a mission bigger than all of us — part of a legacy that continues to grow more impactful every year,” Dr. Doyle said. “We are grateful for Jerry’s iconic contributions to our field and willingness to support our students.”

Forty-four new graduates will be recognized for earning master’s degrees in counseling with a specialization in addiction counseling — enabling them to provide integrated, comprehensive addiction and mental health care consistent with best practices. Nearly all will establish careers in counseling or a related area of the addiction treatment and recovery field, and some will go on to pursue doctorates. Due in part to the overdose epidemic and broader addiction crisis — along with rising mental health and suicide concerns exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic — demand for counselors in the behavioral health industry is projected to grow 22% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Susan Ford Bales (left) and Dr. John Kelly.

The morning of April 19, Moe will also speak to Graduate School alumni and Hazelden Betty Ford staff. The evening before, two other distinguished speakers will speak to alumni and supporters — Hazelden Betty Ford Trustee Susan Ford Bales, daughter of former President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford; and Graduate School Board of Governors member John Kelly, PhD, founder of the Recovery Research Institute at Harvard. Dr. Kelly’s education began years ago at the Hazelden Counselor Training Program, which eventually evolved into the Graduate School.

“I feel incredibly blessed to get the opportunity to join the students, faculty and staff for such a special occasion and to help celebrate 25 years of the Graduate School and 75 years of the Foundation,” Moe said. “Throughout Hazelden Betty Ford’s extraordinary history of leadership, innovation and empowering new beginnings, we have all stood on the shoulders of others. I certainly owe a lot to those who shaped me and my career. It is an amazing gift to be able to pay it forward by recognizing the graduates’ hard work and the importance of their future roles, and to see how Hazelden Betty Ford continues to educate and impact every next generation.”

Former First Lady Betty Ford hired Moe in 1998 shortly after the Betty Ford Center, which she co-founded in 1982, had received $2 million in donations from philanthropist Joan Kroc and Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities to help build the Center’s fledgling program for kids ages 7–12.

Today, thanks to Mrs. Ford’s vision and Moe’s leadership, Hazelden Betty Ford operates Children’s Program sites in California, Colorado and Minnesota; provides programming in schools; and offers a virtual program available to children throughout the world. Many consider it the gold-standard program for children of addiction, and thanks to the ongoing generosity of donors, no child is ever turned away due to an inability to pay.

Jerry Moe on the set of Sesame Street with the Muppet Karli, whose family is facing addiction.

Moe has written dozens of books. A sought-after thought leader, he has spoken in all 50 states and trained or presented in 22 countries. He also has spoken at the White House and on Capitol Hill, and has been interviewed frequently by local, state and national media. Since 2019, Moe has been a significant contributor to Sesame Street in Communities and its Emmy-winning initiative on parental addiction.

Moe joins other notable Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School commencement speakers, such as sports agent Leigh Steinberg (of Jerry Maguire fame), the late New York Times columnist David Carr; North Dakota First Lady Kathryn Burgum, news anchor Laurie Dhue; Dr. Kelly from the Recovery Research Institute; Robert DuPont, MD, the first director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse; and Michael Botticelli, the first person in recovery to lead the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.



Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

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