Global Hero to SUU: Peace Through Education

Published: January 25, 2011 | Read Time: 3 minutes

Southern Utah University’s Convocation Lecture Series is pleased to announce Greg Mortenson, co-author and subject of the New York Times bestseller "Three Cups of Tea" and author of the bestselling "Stones into Schools," will address campus in a presentation entitled “Promoting Peace Through Education” next Tuesday, February 1, at 11:30 a.m. in the SUU Centrum Arena.

In July 1992, Mortenson’s sister, Christa, died from a massive seizure after a lifelong struggle with epilepsy. To honor his sister’s memory, in 1993, Mortenson climbed Pakistan’s K2 -- the world’s second highest mountain. While recovering from the climb in a village called 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 rash promise, grew a humanitarian campaign in which Mortenson has dedicated his life: to promote education, especially for young girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

His 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 in 2003 he escaped a firefight with feuding Afghan warlords by hiding for eight hours under putrid animal hides in a truck going to a leather-tanning factory. Mortensen has overcome two fatwehs from enraged Islamic mullahs, endured CIA investigations, and, following 9/11, also endured threats from fellow Americans for helping Muslim children with education.

It is these experiences Mortensen draws upon in his bestselling books.

His first non-fiction book, "Three Cups of Tea," has sold over four million copies, been published in 45 countries, and remains as a New York Times bestseller since its release more than 200 weeks ago. It has also become mandatory reading for all U.S. military commanders and Special Forces deploying to Afghanistan.

Mortensen's more recent book, "Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs In Afghanistan and Pakistan," was released by Viking and debuted as number two on the New York Times bestseller list.

Mortenson is co-founder of the nonprofit Central Asia Institute and Pennies For Peace. As of 2010, he has 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 over 64,000 children, including 52,000 girls, in regions where few educational opportunities existed before.

Greg Mortenson is a living hero to rural communities of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he 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. He is one of few foreigners who has worked for seventeen years (over 80 months in the field) in rural villages where few foreigners go, and considered the "front lines" of the "war on terror."

President Obama designated $100,000 of his Nobel Peace Prize award to be donated to Mortenson’s efforts in Afghanistan in March 2010.

For his humanitarian efforts over the past 15 years to promote education for girls in rural areas, Mortenson received Pakistan’s highest civil award, Sitara-e-Pakistan (“Star of Pakistan”) in 2009.

Additionally, several bi-partisan U.S. Congressional representatives have nominated Mortenson twice for the Nobel Peace Prize in both 2009 and 2010.

As with all Convocations, Mortensen's lecture is free and open to the public. However, given Mortensen's broad popularity and recent success, a large crowd is anticipated; seating may not be reserved nor guaranteed.

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