Greg Mortensen: Humanitarian and Best-Selling Author of Three Cups of Tea
Ted Constant Convocation Center
President's Lecture Series; Jacobson/Wallenberg Humanitarian Speaker
Greg Mortenson is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time," and co-founder and executive director of the Central Asia Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides educational resources and promotes education in regions where there are few or no educational opportunities.
Founded in 1996 and based in Bozeman, Mont., the organization is governed by a board of directors, all of whom are educators, who have traveled or lived in Pakistan and/or Afghanistan, and committed to the promotion of education and literacy. According to Mortenson, the organization has established over 61 schools in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and educated more than 25,000 children, including 14,000 girls, where few educational opportunities existed before.
Mortenson's decision to help the people in those remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan stems from a personal event in his life. In 1992, his younger sister Christa died from a massive seizure after a lifelong struggle with epilepsy. Mortenson decided to climb Pakistan's K2 Mountain (also known as Mount Austin Godwin) in 1993, the second-highest mountain in the world, in honor of his sister. While recovering in a local village after climbing K2, Mortenson met a group of children writing in the sand with sticks. There, he made a promise to help them build a school. And the rest, as they say, is history.
His humanitarian efforts have not been without strife. He survived an eight-day kidnapping in the Northwest Frontier Province tribal area of Pakistan, and, according to his Web site, received hate mail and death threats after 9/11 for helping Muslim children with their education.
Born in Minnesota in 1947, Mortenson grew up on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. His father was a founder of the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center, a 480-bed teaching hospital, and his mother founded International School Moshi, also in Tanzania. He served in the U.S. Army in Germany from 1977-79, where he received the Army Commendation Medal, and later graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1983.
Mortensen, Greg, "Greg Mortensen: Humanitarian and Best-Selling Author of Three Cups of Tea" (2011). President's Lecture Series. 110.