Mortenson, Greg 1958-

views updated

MORTENSON, Greg 1958-


Born 1958, in Tanzania; son of Irvin and Jerene Mortenson; married Tara Bishop; children: two. Education: University of South Dakota, graduated, 1983.


Home—Bozeman, MT. OfficeCentral Asia Institute, P.O. Box 7209, Bozeman, MT 59771. E-mail[email protected].


Former emergency room nurse, San Francisco, CA; Central Asia Institute, Bozeman, MT, founder and executive director. Military service: U.S. Army; medic; received U.S. Army Commendation Medal.


David Brower Conservation Award, American Alpine Club, 1998; Peacemaker Award, Montana Community Mediation Center, 2002; Golden Piton Award, Climbing Magazine, 2003, for humanitarian effort; Vincent Lombardi Champion Award, 2003, for humanitarian service; Peacemaker of the Year award, Benedictine Monks (Santa Fe, NM), 2003; Outdoor Person of the Year, Outdoor Magazine, 2003; Salzburg Seminar fellow, 2003; Freedom Forum Free Spirit Award, National Press Club, 2004; Jeanette Rankin Peace Award, Institute for Peace, 2004; Anti-Terror Award, Men's Journal, 2005; Humanitarian of the Year Award for Montana, Red Cross, 2005; Alumni Achievement Award, University of South Dakota, 2006.


(With David Oliver Relin) Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations—One School at a Time (autobiography), Viking (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to books, including Sustainable Development in Central Asia, edited by Shirin Akiner and Sander Tideman, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998; The Difference a Day Makes: 365 Ways to Change Your World in Just 24 Hours, edited by Karen Jones, New World Library (Novato, CA), 2005; and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories for a Better World: 101 Stories to Make the World a Better Place, edited by Jack Canfield, Health Communications (Deerfield Beach, FL), 2005.


In 1993, Greg Mortenson went to Pakistan to climb K2, the second-highest mountain in the world. He had no idea when he departed just how far the journey would take him. Mortenson failed to reach the summit, and then he was separated from his group and found himself lost during the descent. He wound up in a remote village in Pakistan begging for aid and shelter. The villagers took him in and cared for him until he was healthy enough to continue, and he promised to repay them by building a school for the village's children.

Mortenson returned to the United States, sold everything he owned, which netted him a mere two thousand dollars, and solicited donations until he had enough money to build that first school. After difficult negotiations with local officials and threats from local Muslim clerics, who were opposed to Mortenson's plan to educate girls as well as boys, Mortenson finally succeeded in opening the school. He then founded the Central Asia Institute, which built dozens more. By 2006 the institute had sponsored fifty-five schools, which served 24,000 children in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia.

This story is told in Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations—One School at a Time, which Mortenson wrote with journalist David Oliver Relin. The book presents "a fresh perspective on the cultures and development efforts of Central Asia," Vanessa Bush noted in Booklist, as well as an "incredible story of a humanitarian endeavor." A Kirkus Reviews critic dubbed Three Cups of Tea "inspiring [and] adventure-filled," while a Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that the "captivating and suspenseful … book will win many readers' hearts."



Mortenson, Greg, and David Oliver Relin, Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations—One School at a Time, Viking (New York, NY), 2006.


Booklist, March 15, 2006, Vanessa Bush, review of Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations—One School at a Time, p. 9.

California Bookwatch, April, 2006, review of Three Cups of Tea.

Chronicle of Philanthropy, May 4, 2006, "One Man's Fight to Educate Girls in Central Asia."

Entertainment Weekly, March 10, 2006, Timothy Gunatilaka, review of Three Cups of Tea, p. 73.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2006, review of Three Cups of Tea, p. 124.

Parade Magazine, April 6, 2003, Kevin Fedarko, "He Fights Terror with Books."

People Weekly, March 20, 2006, Maria Speidel, review of Three Cups of Tea, p. 65.

Publishers Weekly, March 1, 2004, John F. Baker, "Viking Senior Editor Ray Roberts Won an Auction for a Book by Mountaineer Greg Mortenson," p. 14; January 9, 2006, review of Three Cups of Tea, p. 45.


Freedom Forum, (July 12, 2004), brief biography of Greg Mortenson.

Greg Mortenson Home Page, (August 30, 2006).

Three Cups of Tea Web site, (August 30, 2006).

Volvo for Life Awards, (August 30, 2006), brief biography of Greg Mortenson.*