Greg Mortenson is the founder of nonprofit Central Asia Institute www.ikat.org and co-author of New York Times bestseller ‘Three Cups of Tea’ www.threecupsoftea.com
"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 prestigious 2007 KIRIYAMA nonfiction book award.
Mortenson grew up on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania from 1958 to 1973. His father established a 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.
His lifelong interest in mountaineering culminated in a 1993 climb of Pakistan’s treacherous K2, the world’s second highest mountain, which changed his life.
Since 1993, Mortenson has dedicated his life as a humanitarian devoted to promote education, 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.
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 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 in the region now considered the front lines of the war on terror. Mortenson has traveled to more than sixty countries in lifetime.
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 hand out condoms, drop bombs, 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.