Mercy Ships Confirms New CEO

The charity group operating the world's largest non-governmental hospital ship has confirmed a new leader whose appointment was effective immediately.

Following a decision by the Executive Committee of Mercy Ships' International Board of Directors on Tuesday, Interim CEO Sam Smith was unanimously confirmed as the new chief executive officer, according to an announcement Thursday.

"Sam has served admirably as Interim CEO since January 2008, and this appointment is a natural step toward the future of Mercy Ships," remarked Mercy Ships founder and president Don Stephens in the faith-based charity's announcement.

"Sam brings a wealth of experience in the business and marketing world, along with a heart for both the crew and the forgotten poor we serve," he added.

With nearly 20 years of experience in the area of brand and marketing development, Smith has worked with some of the largest manufacturing and retail organizations in North America, including Macy's, Lord & Taylor, Marshall Fields, Dillard's, Hartmarx, and Jack Nicklaus. He also served as president of his own consulting firm, SheriJen, which focused on developing brand, marketing, and training strategies for the retail community.

"Sam exemplifies both professionalism and the sense of calling that will serve the organization well," commented Myron "Mike" Ullman III, chairman of Mercy Ships' International Board of Directors.

Smith officially replaces former CEO Cal Huge, who resigned in December 2007 due to "some unforeseen personal family matters that required him to return home to South Carolina," according to U.S. Mercy Ships spokeswoman Pauline Rick.

Though Huge served as CEO for only a year, Rick said he was responsible for significant advancements at Mercy Ships during his tenure, the most evident being the deployment of the organization's new flagship, the Africa Mercy, in June 2007.

"Although his departure was sudden, Mercy Ships benefited greatly from Cal's efforts and we will forever be grateful for all that he was able to accomplish," Rick expressed in a statement to The Christian Post on Friday.

In his personal remarks, newly confirmed CEO Smith made no reference to the former leader but said he is "humbled and honored to work with our Founder and our International Board of Directors ... a Board that is comprised of some of the most successful leaders from around the world, who have all found a very powerful way to share their blessings."

"It is my hope that God will continue to have a firm grasp on the helm of Mercy Ships, and that we will always follow the example of Jesus bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor of the world," he added.

Over the past 30 years, Mercy Ships has operated hospital ships in developing nations, providing services in more than 70 countries valued at more than $670 million and directly impacting more than 1.9 million people. More than 850 crew worldwide, representing more than 30 nations, are joined each year by thousands of short-term volunteers. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, community developers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort.