June 5, 2012
In 1 Guest, Greater Boston host Emily Rooney spends an entire show interviewing a prominent Bostonian with a story to tell. The series kicked off June 4 with Chris Stevens of Keurig.
BOSTON — Admit it: There’s nothing grosser than coffee from the office coffee pot. How long has it been sitting there? When's the last time it was cleaned? Apricot-cream-flavored coffee … again?!
Those were the questions behind the multimillion-dollar company Keurig.
A venture takes off
“People were leaving the office despite that the coffee was given for free and going to Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts because they could get freshness and convenience and variety,” said Chris Stevens, Keurig vice president of corporate relations and one of the four original team members that developed and launched the Reading, Mass.–based company in 1998.
The single-cup coffeemakers first became popular in the workplace — they can now be found in 13 percent of offices — and have quickly spread to the home. “It is now the No. 1–selling coffee brewer in America in terms of dollar sales,” said Stevens.
Stevens’ tremendous success at Keurig is just the tip of his seemingly boundless resume: he co-owns three commercial websites, a real estate business and a production company in Hollywood and is the author of “Fighting to Give,” a book chronicling a friend’s battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
But at home ...
But while Stevens’ career was soaring, his personal life was hitting heartbreaking lows. In 2004, in the span of just 12 months, Stevens lost both his brothers to Huntington’s disease and his wife to lung cancer.
All three diagnoses came as a shock.
Growing up as foster kids, neither Stevens nor his brothers Ned and Jeff knew they were disposed to Huntington’s, or that their mother had died of it years earlier.
“She was institutionalized and when she got sick and passed away, we didn’t realize it was from Huntington’s disease until both my brothers got sick,” said Stevens. “If you get the gene you have a 50-50 shot of getting the disease.”
Initially, Stevens said he didn’t want to get tested to see if he too carried the gene. But then, he had a change of heart.
“I have five children and finally I said, 'You know what? If something tragic should happen to me, my kids wouldn’t know,’" said Stevens. “I need to give them that peace of mind.”
His test came back negative.
Also in 2004, Stevens’ wife of 27 years, Marian McBride Stevens, died from a rare form of lung cancer.
“She was a marathon runner, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, very spiritual — did all the right things in life — and one day she couldn’t finish a run,” said Stevens.
After a few more weeks of unfinished runs and difficulty breathing, Marian went to the doctors. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.
“There wasn’t much they could do. We brought her home and about 8 weeks later she passed away,” said Stevens.
Since the deaths of his wife and brothers, Stevens has become a writer and motivational speaker, sharing his story of success and loss to help raise awareness of Huntington’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s.
Have ideas for other people Emily should interview for 1 Guest? Leave a comment here or let us know on Facebook.