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"Three Cups of Tea" Author, Humanitarian Greg Mortenson, to Deliver Wallenberg Lecture March 24

Greg Mortenson, co-founder of the nonprofit Central Asia Institute and its Pennies for Peace program, and co-author of the New York Times bestseller "Three Cups of Tea," will deliver the Old Dominion University President's Lecture, for the Connie and Marc Jacobson Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Lecture Series, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 24. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Due to popular demand, this event is sold out.

The annual lecture is held in honor of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish businessman and diplomat who dared to defy the perpetrators of the Holocaust during World War II and is credited with saving the lives of thousands of Jews. An award is given in his memory to recognize recipients for their humanitarian efforts ¬- those who are "making the world a better place" by their actions. Mortenson will receive the award during the program for his educational and philanthropic endeavors.

As of 2010, Mortenson's Central Asia Institute and Pennies for Peace service learning program have established more than 141 schools, and another five dozen temporary refugee schools, in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. These schools provide education to more than 64,000 children, including 52,000 girls, where few educational opportunities existed before. In 2009, Mortenson received Pakistan's highest civil award, Sitara-e-Pakistan ("Star of Pakistan"), for his humanitarian effort to promote girls' education in rural areas. Several bipartisan U.S. congressional representatives have nominated Mortenson twice for the Nobel Peace Prize - in both 2009 and 2010.

Since its release, "Three Cups of Tea" has sold more than 4 million copies, been published in 45 countries and appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for over 170 weeks. The book is mandatory reading for all U.S. military commanders and Special Forces deploying to Afghanistan. Mortenson's new book, "Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan," was released by Viking in late 2009 and debuted at No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Born in 1957, Mortenson grew up on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, where his father founded the hospital Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center and his mother founded International School Moshi. After serving briefly in the U.S. Army, where he received the Commendation Medal, Mortenson attended and graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1983 with a degree in chemistry and nursing.

In July 1992, Mortenson's sister, Christa, died from a massive seizure after a lifelong struggle with epilepsy. To honor her memory, he climbed Pakistan's K2, the world's second-tallest mountain, in the Karakoram range a year later. While recovering from the climb in the village of 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 chance encounter grew a humanitarian campaign, to which Mortenson has since dedicated his life, to promote education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mortenson's work has not been without difficulty. In 1996, he survived an eight-day armed kidnapping by the Taliban in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province tribal areas, and 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 fatwas from enraged Islamic mullahs, endured CIA investigations and received threats from fellow Americans after 9/11 for helping Muslim children with their education.

Well known in the rural communities of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mortenson has gained the trust of Islamic leaders, military and militia commanders, government officials and tribal chiefs from his tireless effort to champion education, especially for girls.

In March 2010, President Barack Obama designated $100,000 of his Nobel Peace Prize award to be donated to Mortenson's effort. When not overseas half the year, Mortenson, 52, lives in Montana with his wife, Tara Bishop, a clinical psychologist, and two young children.

This article was posted on: February 7, 2011

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