April 07, 2011

Greg Mortenson

 

NOTE: This talk has been canceled. Please see this campus note for more information.

By Julia Ferrante

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Humanitarian and education advocate Greg Mortenson, who co-founded the nonprofit Central Asia Institute and Pennies For Peace, co-authored The New York Times bestseller, Three Cups of Tea, will give a talk on Oct. 25 as part of the ongoing Bucknell Forum series, "Creativity: Beyond the Box."

The event, which will be free and open to the public, will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Weis Center for the Performing Arts at Bucknell University. "Greg Mortenson has overcome numerous obstacles in the name of education for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has inspired people around the world with his courage and vision," Bucknell Forum Chair and Vice President for Communications Pete Mackey said. "We are looking forward to welcoming him to Bucknell and to learning from his remarkable experiences."

Three Cups of Tea and its young-adult version, both co-authored with David Oliver Relin, chronicle Mortenson's remarkable efforts to build schools in some of the wildest and most remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan despite enormous political, cultural and geographic challenges. The books have received international acclaim and served as catalysts for changing the way non-profits, governments and others think about education in the developing world.

Mortenson — whose second book, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs, In Afghanistan and Pakistan, was also a New York Times bestseller — has established more than 170 schools and another five dozen temporary refugee schools in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The schools provide education to more than 68,000 children, including 54,000 girls, who had few education opportunities before his work began.

Family of educators
Born in 1957, the son and grandson of educators, Mortenson spent much of his childhood on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. His father, Dempsey, founded the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center, and his mother, Jerene, founded the International School Moshi. Mortenson served in the U.S. Army in Germany from 1977 to 1979 and received the Army Commendation Medal before graduating from the University of South Dakota in 1983 with a degree in chemistry and nursing.

In 1993, he climbed Pakistan's K2, the world's second-highest mountain, to honor the memory of his sister, Christa, who had died a year earlier from a massive seizure after a lifelong struggle with epilepsy. While recovering from the climb in the village Korphe, Mortenson met a group of children sitting in the dirt writing with sticks in the sand, and he made a promise to help them build a school. That promise began a commitment to promoting education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Overcoming obstacles
Mortenson met many obstacles along the way. In 1996, he was kidnapped and held captive for eight days by the Taliban in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province tribal areas. He also escaped a 2003 firefight among feuding Afghan warlords by hiding for eight hours under putrid animal hides in a truck going to a leather-tanning factory. He has undergone CIA investigations and received threats from fellow Americans after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks for helping Muslim children with education.

Mortenson accomplished his goals by gaining the trust of Islamic leaders, military and militia commanders, government officials and tribal chiefs in areas considered the front lines of the war on terrorism. President Obama designated $100,000 of his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize award to Mortenson's effort in Afghanistan.

Numerous honors
Mortenson has received many honors for his books and dozens of awards for his humanitarian efforts. In 2009, he received Pakistan's highest civil award, Sitara-e-Pakistan (or "Star of Pakistan") for his humanitarian effort to promote girls' education in rural areas for 16 years. Mortenson has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Among his other honors, Mortenson was awarded the 2004 Jeanette Rankin Peace Award by the Institute for Peace, the 2005 Red Cross Humanitarian of The Year in Montana, and the 2008 National Award for Citizen Diplomacy from the Citizen Center for Diplomacy. He also was included in the 2009 U.S. News & World Report "America's Best Twenty Leaders" list.

The Bucknell Forum
Since 2007, the Bucknell Forum speakers series has featured nationally renowned leaders, scholars and commentators who have examined various issues from multi-disciplinary perspectives and a diversity of viewpoints. || Previous series events

The "Creativity: Beyond the Box" series task force comprises faculty members Carmen Gillespie, Beth Capaldi Evans, Paula Davis, Joe Tranquillo, Margot Vigeant and Zhiqun Zhu; students Michael Davis, Class of '13, and Lindsay Machen, Class of '11; and administrators Rob Springall and Pete Mackey, chair.

Contact: Division of Communications

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