Deloris Jordan honored by MLK Center

The longtime supporter of the UNC School of Social Work received the Coretta Scott King Soul of the Nation Award.

Dr. Bernice King in a purple dress standing next to Mrs. Deloris Jordan in a red dress against a Carolina Blue backdrop.
Dr. Bernice King (left) and Mrs. Deloris Jordan (right) at the 2024 Beloved Community Awards. (Visual by UNC Creative/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Deloris Jordan accepted the Coretta Scott King Soul of the Nation Award on Jan. 13 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change’s 2024 Beloved Community Awards gala in Atlanta.

The longtime UNC School of Social Work board member and supporter was among several luminaries honored by the King Center, including civil rights activist Ben Crump and retired actor and activist Michael J. Fox. Writer and global health activist Chelsea Clinton introduced her.

Jordan, a North Carolina native and the mother of basketball great Michael Jordan, is known to recent viewers of ESPN’s 2020 The Last Dance docuseries for her emphasis on education and the 2023 Ben Affleck-directed film “Air” as a tough negotiator who inspired her son and his siblings to success. In 1998, she wrote “Family First: Winning the Parenting Game.”

Jordan is an active philanthropist, public speaker and community leader. She co-founded the Michael Jordan Foundation with her late husband, James R. Jordan. Later, she was founder and president of the James R. Jordan Foundation and its international branch, through which she helped build the Kenya Women and Children’s Wellness Centre in Nairobi.

“Truly, I can think of no one more deserving of the Beloved Community Coretta Scott King Soul of the Nation Award than Mrs. Deloris Jordan,” said Ramona Denby-Brinson, social work dean. “Through her extensive community engagement and service, Mrs. Jordan has taken up Coretta Scott King’s call to action wherein she demonstrates how we should give, love and serve a cause greater than ourselves.”

In her speech, Jordan recalled a past opportunity to meet Mrs. Coretta Scott King and talk with her about the importance of family.

“Each and every one of us have a purpose and it is within you,” Jordan said. “What are you doing with your gift? … I challenge each one of us: How do we go back to our communities and make a difference?”

Jordan noted the mentors who lifted and inspired her as a community advocate, including the late civil rights and women’s rights activist Dorothy Height, Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman and the award’s namesake.

Attending the gala were her daughter Roslyn Jordan ’87 and her son Michael Jordan ’86, the former Carolina and Chicago Bulls basketball star who led the Bulls to six NBA championships. Other family members spanning four generations also celebrated with the award-winner at the entertainment-filled gala.

The Jordan Institute for Families, founded at the UNC School of Social Work in 1996 by Michael Jordan and his family, works to cultivate safe, stable, nurturing families over the course of life. Roslyn Jordan served as a policy advisory board member to the institute in its formative years.

“For years, Mrs. Jordan has championed social work causes and through the Jordan Institute, continues to make a positive difference in the lives of hundreds of children and families. Mrs. Deloris Jordan’s work is truly worthy of emulation,” Denby-Brinson said.

“Mrs. Jordan’s deep commitment to supporting families and those who serve them is inspiring,” said Sarah Verbiest, Jordan Institute director. “She expects excellence while offering encouragement.”

During her acceptance speech, Jordan called out both Carolina and the Jordan Institute, to whoops from a table of supporters from the UNC School of Social Work.

In closing, Jordan called on all to love one another, “not by the color of our skin or by our culture but by our shared humanity.”

Read more about the event.