Former Tennessee AD Mike Hamilton joins nonprofit
Mike Hamilton started focusing on raising awareness about conditions in Africa two years ago.
That's when the former Tennessee athletic director learned the meaning of Kula, the name of his adopted daughter from Ethiopia. It means get the word out, said Hamilton, who Thursday announced that he has accepted a new job as president of U.S. operations for Nashville-based Blood:Water Mission. The nonprofit organization works to provide clean water and to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS in Africa.
''Since that moment I haven't been able to stop thinking about the crisis issues Africans are facing on a regular basis and we in America aren't aware of it,'' Hamilton recalled.
Hamilton, his wife Beth, daughter Madison and son Matthew welcomed siblings Kalu, Kiya and Nate into their family after an adoption process that ended in the summer of 2009. After visiting Ethiopia several times, the Hamiltons sought to do more to get the word out about conditions in sub-Saharan African countries.
They worked on a volunteer-basis with Blood:Water Mission as things became rocky for Hamilton with the Tennessee athletics department while it was the subject of a two-year NCAA investigation. Hamilton drew fire for his hiring of former football coach Lane Kiffin and basketball coach Bruce Pearl, who were among the targets of the probe. He resigned to give the program a clean slate as it tried to move past the investigation.
Hamilton was often lauded for his fundraising prowess at Tennessee, and worked with Blood: Water Mission as both a development consultant and board member before the organization approached him about becoming president.
Blood:Water Mission was founded by the members of the band Jars of Clay in 2005. The organization has funded a late-stage AIDS hospice, has helped provide water to communities in 11 countries and has provided access to HIV/AIDS education, treatment and support.
''Mike will bring significant experience to our organization at an optimal time,'' Blood:Water Mission board chairman Rich Hoops said in a statement. ''His proven track record in cultivating relationships and leading campaigns to support large scale initiatives will enable us to strengthen our engagement with our US audience and, in turn, provide our current and future domestic supporters with even greater opportunity to impact communities in Africa.''
The work with HIV/AIDS education and treatment was especially important to the Hamiltons because Kalu, Kiya and Nate's birth mother passed away after complications from AIDS.
''I've been passionate about this because it's interwoven with our own personal story,'' Hamilton said. ''It became personal with us.''
Hamilton, 48, said his association with college athletics won't end as he and his family moves to Nashville because he will continue to be a fan of the program he worked with for 19 years, and he may one day consider returning to work for an athletics program.
For now he will use the skills he's honed in athletics for a different cause as he travels around the country working to raise money and educate others.
''I'm competitive. Just the competitive nature of me lends itself to this work,'' he said.