The Mountain Institute - Excellence in Educating Mountain Community Award Winner

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Greg Mortenson with Lalander village schoolgirls, Char Asiab valley, Afghanistan. The Central Asia Institute school here was attacked in 2007 by the Taliban, but reinstated after only two days by the villagers.

Greg Mortenson Bio

(May 10, 2007)

Greg Mortenson is the founder of nonprofit Central Asia Institute, Pennies For Peace, and co-author of New York Times bestseller ‘Three Cups of Tea’ (NY Times nonfiction paperback top ten for 14 weeks since February 2007).

"Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission To Promote Peace… One School At A Time", co-authored by David Oliver Relin (Penguin 2007) was also a TIME Magazine Asia Book of the Year, received the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA) nonfiction Book Award, and the 2007 Kiriyama nonfiction book award.

Mortenson grew up on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania from 1958 to 1973. His father established a 480 bed teaching hospital, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center, and his mother founded the International School Moshi.

He was a U.S. Army medic in Germany during the Cold War (1977-1979), where he received the Army Commendation Medal, and later graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1983, and pursued graduate studies in neurophysiology.

On July 24th, 1992, Mortenson’s younger sister, Christa Eliana, 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 1993, to honor his sister’s memory, Mortenson attempted an ascent of Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain in the Karakoram range.

After the K2 climb, while recovering in a local village called Korphe, Mortenson met a group of schoolchildren sitting in the dirt writing with sticks in the sand, and made a promise to help them build a school.

Greg Mortenson with Afghan schoolchildren in Sarhad village, Wakhan corridor, NE Afghanistan. This are the first children in the region to attend school. Photo: 2006 Sarfraz Khan (Central Asia Institute staff).

From that rash promise, grew a remarkable humanitarian campaign, in which Mortenson has dedicated his life to promote education and literacy, especially for girls, in remote, volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

As of 2007, Mortenson has established 58 schools in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide education to over 24,000 children, including 14,000 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 tribal areas of western 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 Islamic mullahs, and also received hate mail and death threats from his 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 and tribal chiefs from his tireless effort to champion education, especially for girls.

He is one of few foreigners who has worked extensively for fourteen years (spending over 64 months) in the region now considered the front lines of the war on terror.

His cross-cultural expertise has brought him to speak on U.S. Capital Hill, National think tanks, the Pentagon, Dept. of Defense, U.S. State Dept., libraries, outdoor groups, universities, schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, business and civic groups, women's organizations and much more.

Mortenson is an advocate of girls’ education as one of the major solutions to bring economic development, peace and prosperity to impoverished societies, and says, “you can drop bombs, become a suicide terrorist, build roads, or put in electricity, but until the girls are educated a society won’t change”.

NBC newscaster, Tom Brokaw, calls Mortenson, “one ordinary person, with the right combination of character and determination, who is really changing the world”.

While not overseas half the year, Mortenson, 49, lives in Bozeman, Montana with his wife, Dr. Tara Bishop, and two children.

Book tour, reviews and media on

Central Asia Institute website

Pennies For Peace website

Author website


1975 US Army Commendation medal

1998 American Alpine Club David Brower Conservation Award

2002 Peacemaker Award from Montana Community Mediation Center

2003 Climbing Magazine "Golden Piton Award" for humanitarian effort

2003 Vincent Lombardi Champion Award for humanitarian service

2003 Peacemaker of the Year" Benedictine Monks, Santa Fe, NM

2003 Outdoor Person of the Year - Outdoor Magazine

2003 Salzburg Seminar fellow, sponsored by Microsoft

2004 Freedom Forum "Free Spirit Award" (National Press Club, D.C.)

2004 Jeanette Rankin Peace Award - Institute for Peace

2005 Men's Journal 'Anti-Terror' Award

2005 Red Cross “Humanitarian of The Year” Montana

2006 Golden Fleur-de-lis Award from Comune Firenze, Italy

2007 Medical Education Hall of Fame Award, Toledo, Ohio (April 2007)

2007 Mountain Institute Award For Excellence in Mountain Community Service (Oct 23)

Contact for more information:

Jennifer Sipes Central Asia Institute PO Box 7209 Bozeman, MT USA 59771 Tel 406 585-7841 Fax 406-585-5302 Email cai@ikat.orgWeb

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