World-renowned Children's Counselor Jerry Moe to Deliver Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School Commencement Address

Learn About Hazelden Betty Ford

Center City, Minn. (March 14, 2024) – 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.

Jerry MoeMoe 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." 

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.1

"We are excited to honor our graduates as they become forces of healing and hope during this time of urgent, escalating needs and widespread counselor shortages," Dr. Doyle said.

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 Dr. John Kelly, 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," said Moe. "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.

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.

Launched in 1963 to develop a new generation of addiction treatment professionals, the Hazelden Chemical Dependency Counselor Training Program—as it was originally known—evolved into the Graduate School in 1999 when it admitted its first master's students. As the longest continuous, accredited provider of substance use counselor training in the United States, the school has educated students from 47 states, two U.S. territories, the District of Columbia and 44 countries, including Japan, Iceland, Norway, Great Britain and Bermuda; and continues to propel standards for the field.

With both onsite and distance-learning options, the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School typically enrolls well over 200 students each year in its two addiction counseling programs. Graduates taking licensing and certification examinations have a 99% exam pass rate, and 92.1% of graduates are successfully employed within six months of graduation.2

For those interested in learning more about the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School, the school offers regular open houses and events. To inquire about commencement activities, please email 

  1. "Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last updated October 24, 2022. (visited January 18, 2023)
  2. 99% exam pass rate is based on 95/96 survey respondents from 2018-2022. 92% of graduates successfully employed within six months based on 128/139 survey respondents from 2018-2022.

About the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School

The Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School educates future leaders in addiction counseling who provide evidence-based, integrated care for substance use and co-occurring disorders. Hazelden Betty Ford has been training addiction counselors longer than any other institution in the U.S. and aims to set the international standard for addiction counselor education, practice and leadership. The school and its programs hold accreditations from the Higher Learning Commission, the National Addiction Studies Accreditation, Commission, and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Learn more

About the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As the nation's leading nonprofit provider of comprehensive inpatient and outpatient addiction and mental health care for adults and youth, the Foundation has treatment centers and telehealth services nationwide as well as a network of collaborators throughout health care. Through charitable support and a commitment to innovation, the Foundation is able to continually enhance care, research, programs and services, and help more people. With a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center, the Foundation today is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in its services and throughout the organization, which also encompasses a graduate school of addiction studies, a publishing division, an addiction research center, recovery advocacy and thought leadership, professional and medical education programs, school-based prevention resources and a specialized program for children who grow up in families with addiction.