PORTLAND — For his business acumen alone, Ken Calwell has received much attention. With more than 30 years of leadership experience in major restaurant and food companies — most recently as head of Vancouver, Wash.-based Papa Murphy’s pizza — Calwell has an impressive resume.
But when Calwell speaks April 14 at the Portland Good Friday Breakfast — one of the area’s largest annual Christian events — he will primarily focus on how his life changed after a near-fatal bicycle accident. “People think my story is how I almost died, but the real story is about life, and about the lessons that I learned in the challenges that I went through,” Calwell said.
Sponsored annually by the Portland-based ministry Open Arms International, the breakfast traditionally draws more than 1,000 people to the Oregon Conven-tion Center. With this year’s theme of “Tragedy to Triumph,” the 11th run of the event is from 7 to 8:45 a.m. on April 14.
An MBA graduate of Indiana University, Calwell did his undergraduate work in business at Washburn University in Kansas. He worked his way through college by running his own lawn-mowing business. His early career included stints at Pillsbury and PepsiCo. Previously the top marketer for Domino’s Pizza, Cal-well was the first marketing chief for Wendy’s/Ar-by’s Corp.
In 2011 he went back to the pizza business when he was named president of Papa Murphy’s, the chain that pioneered “take n’ bake” pizza and the No. 1 consumer-rated pizza chain in the nation. In 2012, Calwell took over as the company’s CEO. He resigned from Papa Murphy’s three months ago to pursue other interests.
In 1991, while on a training ride in Kansas for the U.S. National Triathlon Championships, a car moving 50 mph struck Calwell, then 28. He sustained multiple fractures throughout his body.
So tattered was his skin from punctures and evulsions that he lost nearly two-thirds of his blood on the pavement. Stabilizing Calwell required nine hours of surgery, including 400 stitches and staples.
Calwell, his wife of more than 20 years, Sandy, and their 18-year-old son live in Vancouver.
Open Arms is an international humanitarian and development non-profit agency dedicated to raising children in Africa. Co-founders David and Rachel Gallagher launched the Good Friday breakfast because they saw a need for an event in Portland to highlight the historical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and wanted the opportunity to reach out to the greater Portland community with an evangelical message of God’s love. The breakfast each year features a special inspirational speaker.
Individual breakfast tickets are $45; tables of 10 are $425, To purchase tickets or for more information, go to www.PortlandGoodFridayBreakfast.org. For more on Open Arms, go to www.OpenArmsInternational.org