Greg Mortenson is the co-founder of nonprofit Central Asia Institute www.ikat.org , founder of Pennies For Peace www.penniesforpeace.org , and co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea www.threecupsoftea.com , and author of the bestsellerStones into Schools www.stonesintoschools.com .
In 2009, Mortenson received Pakistan’s highest civil award, Sitara-e-Pakistan (“Star of Pakistan”) for his dedicated and humanitarian effort to promote education and literacy in rural areas for fifteen years.
Several bi-partisan U.S. Congressional representatives have nominated Mortenson twice for the Nobel Peace Prize in both 2009 and 2010.
Mortenson was born in Minnesota in 1957. He grew up on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (1958 to 1973). His father Dempsey, co-founded Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC) www.kcmc.ac.tz a teaching hospital, and his mother, Jerene, founded the International School Moshi www.ismoshi.org .
He served in the U.S. Army in Germany (1977-1979), where he received the Army Commendation Medal, and graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1983.
In July 1992, Mortenson’s sister, Christa, died from a massive seizure after a lifelong struggle with epilepsy on the eve of a trip to visit Dysersville, Iowa, where the baseball movie, ‘Field of Dreams’, was filmed in a cornfield.
To honor his sister’s memory, in 1993, Mortenson climbed Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain in the Karakoram range.
While recovering from the climb in a village called Korphe, Mortenson met a group of children sitting in the dirt writing with sticks in the sand, and made a promise to help them build a school.
From that rash promise, grew a remarkable humanitarian campaign, in which Mortenson has dedicated his life to promote education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
His work has not been without difficulty. In 1996, he survived an eight day armed kidnapping by the Taliban in Pakistan’ Northwest Frontier Province tribal areas, escaped a 2003 firefight with feuding Afghan warlords by hiding for eight hours under putrid animal hides in a truck going to a leather-tanning factory. He has overcome fatwehs from enraged Islamic mullahs, endured CIA investigations, and also received threats from fellow Americans after 9/11, for helping Muslim children with education.
Mortenson is a living hero to rural communities of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he has gained the trust of Islamic leaders, military commanders, government officials and tribal chiefs from his tireless effort to champion education, especially for girls.
He is one of few foreigners who has worked for over a decade in rural villages where few foreigners go, and considered the ‘front lines’ of the ‘war on terror’