Sunday, February 08, 2009
A Life Dedicated to Others
From a humble upbringing in Alabama, Millard Fuller graduated from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, and then graduated from the University of Alabama Law School at Tuscaloosa. With partnership from a college friend, Fuller launched a marketing firm before graduating.
By the age of 29, Fuller had earned his first million dollars. But as he was enjoying success in business, his marriage and health were suffering. Things became severe enough that Fuller put his career on hold and re-evaluated his priorities. After reconciling with his wife, Fuller elected to launch into a new direction. Fuller and his wife sold everything they owned and gave the money to the poor. They moved to a Christian community near Americus, Georgia called "Koinonia Farm".
With the founder of Koinonia Farm and small group of others, Fuller created a housing ministry building houses on a no-interest and non-profit basis for low income families. Homeowners were required to invest "sweat quity" into their homes and in homes of others. The belief that the homeowner would develop pride in the home by being part of the construction and would strike positive relationships with the other families they assisted.
Fuller, his wife, and four children moved to Africa in 1973 and began building homes on this principle in Zaire. The success they witnessed in Zaire convinced the family that this model could be applied world wide improving the living conditions of humanity around the planet.
Fuller and family returned to the United States in 1976 and launched Habitat for Humantity International. In 1994 he and his wife were awarded the Harry S. Truman Public Service Award. He also received the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award from both the state of Georgia and the King Center. “Professional Builder” magazine named Fuller Builder of the Year in 1995. In 1996, U.S. President Bill Clinton awarded Fuller the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, calling Habitat “…the most successful continuous community service project in the history of the United States.” He received the 1999 Jefferson Award from the American Institute of Public Service for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged. The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation honored Fuller with the Frank Annunzio award in 2000 for his lifetime achievement in public service. In 2002, Fuller and his wife were awarded the Bronze Medallion from the Points of Light Foundation in Washington, D.C., honoring their pioneering work in service. Fuller was also awarded the Overcoming Obstacles award from the Community for Education Foundation in New York. He was named Georgian of the Year and received the Auburn University Lifetime Achievement Award as well. In 2003, “The NonProfit Times” named Fuller its Executive of the Year. Fuller also received the T.B. Maston Christian Ethics Award that year. Also in 2003, “Professional Builder” magazine presented Fuller with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2004, Fuller and Habitat for Humanity International received the World Methodist Peace Award from the World Methodist Council. Additionally, Fuller received more than 50 honorary doctorate degrees in fields such as law and public service for his leadership toward meeting the goal of eliminating poverty housing worldwide.
Fuller continued to serve in executive roles in the leadership of Habitat for Humanity through 2005 when he lost control of Habitat in a clash with its board members.
Millard Fuller died Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at the age of 74 while traveling to an area hospital in Albany, Georgia after experiencing chest pains.