Dr. Albert Reyes learned to follow the call. It first came from his no-nonsense Marine Corps father, who taught his three sons how to respond when he called them. “My dad would say, ‘When you hear my voice, say “Yes, sir” and start running toward me until you find me.’ That’s how we were raised,” Dr. Reyes says. “There wasn’t any alternative. We did what we were told to do.”
It was when Dr. Reyes was fifteen that he started hearing a different kind of call. “I began sensing that God, the Father, was calling me to vocational ministry, and I applied the same principle,” Dr. Reyes explains. The good doctor has since gone where he believed God wanted him to be—and his trajectory has become an act of obedience to his faith and life purpose.
Today, as the sixth president and CEO of the 141-year-old nonprofit Buckner International, Dr. Reyes finds ways to serve those most in need, thanks in part to a razor-sharp business acumen that would rival the talents of any bigwig pulling the levers at a for-profit conglomerate. Buckner is focused on keeping families together by investing early and educating them about creating a foundation strong enough to weather storms without allowing the cracks to become widespread.
The Business of Faith
Dr. Reyes’s journey has been a two-fold pursuit of both ministry and business experience. As a young man, he realized that in order to go to seminary, he’d first have to earn a bachelor’s degree. He decided to go the business route, earning a BBA in management from Angelo State University—he had grown up in an entrepreneurial-focused family, one that dabbled in wholesale candy distribution, grocery stores, and laundromats.
At a certain point during business studies, though, he thought he’d made a mistake. “I have to be honest, I remember sitting in some of my business courses almost complaining to God about when I was ever going to use what I was learning,” Dr. Reyes says, chuckling. “I thought I should be studying Greek and Hebrew, getting ready for the seminary. But I did what I had to do graduate.” He eventually made it to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary—where he earned a master’s and doctoral degree in preparation for vocational ministry—before attending Andrews University, where he earned a PhD in leadership.
At Buckner International, an international ministry serving vulnerable children, families, and senior adults, Dr. Reyes now oversees a $120 million budget that impacts hundreds of thousands of lives and has investors and donors who want proof of concept to know that their money is being spent wisely. Those business skills Dr. Reyes perhaps reluctantly learned are now being put to use daily, an irony that isn’t lost on him.
Determined to pay his way through seminary, Dr. Reyes began working for Dallas-based start-up US Telephone in the 1980s. He received training from best-selling author and management consultant Dr. Ken Blanchard (The One Minute Manager), and by his midtwenties was managing 150 people and a multimillion-dollar budget. That company would later become Sprint, and after helping take the company to its IPO—and, more importantly, graduating from seminary—Dr. Reyes took on full-time pastorates that would lead him around Texas.
He led Baptist University of the Americas to receive accreditation to grant degrees for the first time in its fifty-two-year history. He also led the campus to grow in size by adding a 90-acre purchase of land and lining up the largest single multimillion-dollar gift in the school’s history.
It’s where Dr. Reyes thought he’d spend the remainder of his career until the call from Buckner came.
When Waiting Isn’t Enough
Over the course of his fourteen years at Buckner International—eight as president and CEO— Dr. Reyes has sought to increase the outreach and support to children and families and senior retirement communities. In regard to children and families, the organization developed Family Hope Centers, which were piloted in Guatemala and Honduras before being implemented in Texas under the leadership of Dr. Reyes’s predecessor, Dr. Ken Hall.
“We disrupted our own best practices,” Dr. Reyes explains. “What if we don’t wait until children are in a place where they have been abused or neglected? What if we were to get ahead of the problem before it happens?”
The idea was to provide customized solutions based on the needs of individual families. That might mean parenting classes, child resiliency intervention, or helping to provide isolated families with social connections within their communities. “We identify the issues that families tell us they want to work on and help them create goals to get there,” Dr. Reyes says. “We tell our families that ‘Every pro athlete needs a good coach.’ We want to be the coaches for these families.”
“What if we don’t wait until children are in a place where they have been abused or neglected? What if we were to get ahead of the problem before it happens?”
Dr. Reyes, ever the business mind, has been able to effectively quantify the results of the Family Hope Centers approach. “Our family coaching costs about $2,000 per family, per year,” Dr. Reyes says. “If you wait for a child to be separated from their family due to abuse, abandonment, or neglect and to be put into the foster care system to intervene, serving one child will cost $54,000 a year. That isn’t taking into account the trauma or emotional scars they’ve had to endure, or the resources and time it takes to help a child overcome those scars. That’s just the raw cost.” Dr. Reyes says for every dollar that is spent on prevention, it’s $27 saved on the negative alternative: waiting.
The astute business approach of Dr. Reyes—combined with the deep-seated compassion for those he supports—has long been respected by his most trusted partners. “Dr. Reyes continues the legacy of servant leadership that has always marked the person at the helm of Buckner,” says Gaylon Brown, CEO and managing partner at TexCap Insurance. “His trust in his team and his love for the people they serve are what propel Buckner to shine hope across the world.”
Currently, Buckner International is the only institution of its kind that is working in this space, according to the leaders of Christian Alliance for Orphans and the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute—but Dr. Reyes says it’s OK to be at the front of the pack. “We’re excited about creating this disruption, even if it’s to our own model and best practices. We’re doing the right thing for kids before they get hurt.”
As Buckner continues to provide innovative solutions for the most vulnerable members of the population, Dr. Reyes says he’s got a good idea where he should be leading the organization. He’ll just keep responding to the call.
HighGround Advisors congratulates Dr. Reyes for this well-deserved recognition. Since 1930, we have been honored to serve Buckner Foundation and other clients dedicated to transforming lives. HighGround Advisors protects, strengthens and grows the assets of nonprofits, faith-based organizations and charitable individuals with comprehensive investment management and gift planning services.