Greg Mortenson is the co-founder of nonprofit Central Asia Institute www.ikat.org, Pennies For|
Peace www.penniesforpeace.org, and co-author of New York Times bestseller ‘Three Cups of
Tea’ www.threecupsoftea.com which has been a # 1 New York Times bestseller for 82 weeks
since its January 2007 release, and was Time Magazine Asia Book of The Year.
On August 14th, 2008, Pakistan’s government announced on its Independence Day, that Greg
Mortenson will receive Pakistan’ highest civil award, Sitara-e-Pakistan (“Star of Pakistan”) for
his courage and humanitarian effort to promote education, and literacy in rural areas for the last
fifteen years. Pakistan’s President will confer the award on March 23rd, 2009, in a official
ceremony in Islamabad.
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 during the Cold War (1977-1979), where he received
the Army Commendation Medal, and later graduated from the University of South Dakota
(1983), and pursued graduate studies in neurophysiology.
On July 24th, 1992, Mortenson’s younger 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.
In 1993, to honor his sister’s memory, Mortenson climbed Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second
highest mountain in the Karakoram range.
After K2, while recovering in a local 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
As of 2008, Mortenson has established over 78 schools in rural and often volatile regions of
Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide education to over 28,000 children, including 18,000
girls, where few education opportunities existed before.
His work has not been without difficulty. In 1996, he survived an eight day armed kidnapping in
the Northwest Frontier Province NWFP tribal areas of Pakistan, 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 two fatwehs from enraged Islamic mullahs, endured
CIA investigations, and also received hate mail and death 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 extensively for fifteen years (spending over 67
months) in the region now considered the front lines of the war on terror.
NBC newscaster, Tom Brokaw, calls Mortenson, “one ordinary person, with the right
combination of character and determination, who is really changing the world”.
Congresswoman Mary Bono (Rep – Cali.) says, "I've learned more from Greg Mortenson about
the causes of terrorism than I did during all our briefings on Capitol Hill. He is a true hero,
whose creativity, courage, and compassion exemplify the true ideals of the American spirit.”
Mortenson advocates girls’ education as the top priority to promote economic development,
peace and prosperity, and says, “you can drop bombs, hand out condoms, build roads, or put in
electricity, but until the girls are educated a society won’t change”.
While not overseas half the year, Mortenson, 50, lives in Bozeman, Montana with his wife, Dr.
Tara Bishop, a clinical psychologist, and two children.
Visit https://www.gregmortenson.com for more information on Greg Mortenson