• Birth—December 27, 1957
• Reared—in Tanzania, Africa
• Education—A.A., B.A., University of South Dakota (USA)
• Awards—numerous humanitarian awards (see below)
• Currently—lives in Bozeman, Montana, USA
Greg Mortenson is an American humanitarian, writer, and former mountaineer. Mortenson is the co-founder (with Dr. Jean Hoerni) and director of the non-profit Central Asia Institute, and founder of the educational charity Pennies For Peace. He is the protagonist and co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission To Promote Peace... One School At A Time (2007). He published a a sequel, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009.
From 1958-1973, Mortenson grew up in Africa near Mount Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania. His father, Irvin "Dempsey" Mortenson, was the founder/development director of the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center, Tanzania's first teaching hospital. His mother, Dr. Jerene Mortenson, founded the International School Moshi.
Mortenson served in the U.S. Army in Germany from 1975 to 1977 as a medic, and received the Commendation Medal. He attended Concordia College, Moorhead, from 1977 to 1979, and later graduated from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, South Dakota, in 1983 with an Associate Degree in Nursing and a Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry.
In July 1992, Mortenson's young sister, Christa Mortenson, died from a life-long struggle with severe epilepsy on the morning she had planned to visit the cornfield in Dyersville, Iowa, where the iconic baseball movie Field of Dreams was filmed.
In 1993, to honor his deceased sister's memory, Mortenson went to climb K2, the world's second highest mountain, in the Karakoram range of northern Pakistan. After more than 70 days on the mountain, Mortenson and three other climbers completed a life-saving rescue of a fifth climber that took more than 75 hours. The time and energy devoted to this rescue prevented him from attempting to reach the summit. After the rescue, he began his descent of the mountain and became weak and exhausted. Mortenson set out with one local Balti porter by the name of Mouzafer Ali to the nearest city, but he took a wrong turn along the way and ended up in Korphe, a small village, where Mortenson was cared for by the villagers while he recovered.
To pay the remote community back for their compassion, Mortenson said he would build a school for the village. After a frustrating time trying to raise money, Mortenson convinced Jean Hoerni, a Silicon Valley pioneer, to fund the Central Asia Institute. The mission of CAI—a non-profit organization—is to promote education and literacy, especially for girls, in remote mountain regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hoerni named Mortenson as CAI's first Executive Director.
In the process of building schools, Mortenson has survived an eight-day armed 1996 kidnapping in the tribal areas of Waziristan, in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province; escaped a 2003 firefight between Afghan opium warlords; endured two fatwās by angry Islamic clerics for educating girls; and received hate mail and threats from fellow Americans for helping educate Muslim children.
Mortenson believes that education and literacy for girls globally is the most important investment all countries can make to create stability, bring socio-economic reform, decrease infant mortality, decrease the population explosion, and improve health, hygiene, and sanitation standards globally. Mortenson believes that "fighting terrorism" only perpetuates a cycle of violence and that there should be a global priority to "promote peace" through education and literacy, with an emphasis on girls' education. "You can drop bombs, hand out condoms, build roads or put in electricity, but unless the girls are educated, a society won't change," is an often-quoted statement made by Mortenson. Because of community "buy-in," which involves getting villages to donate land, subsidized or free labor ("sweat equity"), wood and resources, the schools have local support and have been able to avoid retribution by the Taliban or other groups opposed to girls' education.
• Mortenson and David Oliver Relin are co-authors of the New York Times bestselling book Three Cups of Tea.
• The Government of Pakistan announced on its Independence Day of August 14, 2008, that Mortenson will receive Pakistan’s highest civilian award, the Sitara-e-Pakistan (The Star of Pakistan), in a Islamabad civil ceremony during Pakistan Day on March 23, 2009.
• In August 2008, Mortenson met with then-President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf over tea, and in March 2009, Mortenson met with new President Asif Zardari for a cup of tea, upon receiving the Sitara-e-Pakistan award.
• On July 15, 2009, Admiral Mike Mullen, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff paid a visit to Pushgur school, in a remote valley of Afghanistan, to inaugurate one of Mortenson’s new schools, to highlight the military’s new strategy to advocate empowering local communities, build relationships and the significance of education to promote peace. Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist, wrote about the visit in his column.
• Mortenson was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and in 2010, by several bi-partisan members of U.S. Congress. According to Norwegian odd-makers, he was believed to have been in a handful of finalists of the Peace Prize that was eventually awarded to Barack Obama on October 10, 2009.
• In November 2009, U.S. News & World Report magazine featured Greg Mortenson as one of America's Top Twenty Leaders in 2009.
• Mortenson was featured on a Bill Moyers PBS TV Journal 30-minute interview on Sunday, January 15, 2010, discussing the role of the U.S. military and Obama troop surge in Afghanistan, and significant role of girls' education as a determinant of peace. (From Wikipedia.)
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