Mercy Ships founder to speak at E Day

Don Stephens
Don Stephens

A former Western Colorado resident who founded an international charity that provides free health care from a hospital ship will share his experiences at an annual event celebrating entrepreneurship.

Don Stephens, founder and president of Mercy Ships, will deliver the keynote address at Colorado Mesa University Entrepreneurship Day events in Grand Junction and Montrose.

Entrepreneurship Day events are set for March 19 in Grand Junction and March 20 Montrose.

In Grand Junction, a luncheon and keynote address is set for noon at the Colorado Mesa University Center near 12th and Elm streets. Tickets sell for $50 each or $500 for a table sponsorship for eight people and two sponsored CMU students. Tickets for CMU students sell for $20. General admission tickets that include the keynote address, but not lunch, sell for $10. For tickets or more information, log on to

In Montrose, a luncheon and keynote address are set for noon at the Montrose Pavilion, 1800 Pavilion Drive. Tickets sell for $35 each or $400 for eight people and two sponsored students. For tickets or more information, call 249-7009 or visit the CMU campus located at 234 S. Cascade Ave.

The Entrepreneurship Day luncheons serve as benefit events in raising money for scholarships for business students at CMU.

In Grand Junction, the event also includes a series of free presentations on various business topics as well as a student competition to develop ideas for new products and services.

Stephens will join a growing list of prominent leaders who’ve appeared at Entrepreneurship Day, including the founders of North Face and Ben & Jerry’s as well as an executive with Coors.

Stephens and his wife, Deyon, founded Mercy Ships in 1978 and since have converted former ocean liners and ferries into floating hospitals and recruited volunteer professionals who have provided free health care services in more than 70 countries. Procedures performed aboard the ships include cataract, facial reconstruction, obstetric and orthopaedic surgeries.

It’s estimated the Mercy Ships organization and its volunteers have performed medical services valued at more than $1 billion and assisted more than 2.3 million people.

Mercy Ships currently operates the Africa Mercy, a 500-foot-long vessel equipped with five operating theaters, an 82-bed recovery ward, a CT scanner, X-ray machines and laboratory. The ship also provides accommodations for a crew of 400. The Africa Mercy has more capacity than all three previous Mercy Ships vessels combined.

The Stephens lived for 10 years aboard the first ship and raised four children. The couple now works out of Texas.

Don Stephens grew up in Olathe and was inspired by the work of the 1950s-era hospital ship the S.S. Hope as later a visit with Mother Teresa and the work of her Sisters of Charity in India.

The couple attended what was at the time Mesa College in Grand Junction. Deyon Stephens graduated in 1966 from the nursing program. The couple was among the winners of distinguished alumni awards presented by CMU in 2013.

In addition to the keynote luncheon on the CMU campus in Grand Junction, Entrepreneurship Day will include a series of free business presentations. A contest will challenge CMU students to develop ideas for new products and services. The top three finalists will pitch their plans during brief presentations at the luncheon and vie for cash prizes that can be used as seed money to help fund their ventures.