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Man with key role in Mercy Corps dies in Portland

Associated Press

PORTLAND – Ellsworth Culver, co-founder and senior vice president of the Mercy Corps humanitarian organization, has died at 78.

The cause of his death Monday was complications following cancer surgery, the Oregonian reported. Culver and Dan O’Neill established Mercy Corps in 1982. As its president from 1984 to 1993, Culver oversaw the organization’s expansion of international relief and development programs into Africa, Asia and Central America. It is now a $173 million-a-year operation that reaches people in 35 countries.

“Ells spent his whole life reaching out to those in need and working to build a better, more just world,” Neal Keny-Guyer, Mercy Corps chief executive officer, said in a statement.

“To so many of us, he was a friend, a mentor, a visionary with a tireless commitment and a warm sense of humor.”

Culver traveled to more than 90 nations, dodging bombs and surviving wars. Recently, Culver was opening Mercy Corps’ Hong Kong office, expanding operations in China and planning his 23rd trip to North Korea for October.

Culver, the son of missionaries, was born in Seattle and lived until age 9 in Fuzhou, China. He got his bachelor’s degree in sociology and history from Asbury College in Wilmore, Ky.

Culver moved to Taiwan and then the Philippines, starting Overseas Crusades, a church-related service organization.

He became executive vice president of World Vision International in 1958, later running a public-relations firm and managing organizations that included Food for the Hungry, International.

During the civil-rights struggle, he designed and ran Involvement Corps, which formed corporate-employee task forces to work on inner-city projects.

“He wanted justice done everywhere,” said his friend, Jack Stowell.

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