Who is Greg Iles?
Mortenson’s new book, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs, In Afghanistan and Pakistan, was released by Viking on December 1st, 2009, and debuted as # 2 on the NY Times hardcover bestseller list.
As of 2010, Mortenson has established over 131 schools in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide education to over 58,000 children, including 44,000 girls, where few education 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 for fifteen years.
Several bi-partisan U.S. Congressional representatives twice nominated Mortenson for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and 2010.
Mortenson was born in 1957, and grew up on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (1958 to 1973). His father Dempsey, founded Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC) www.kcmc.ac.tz a hospital, and mother, Jerene, founded the International School Moshi.
He served in the U.S. Army in Germany (1977-1979), where he received the Army Commendation Medal, and later graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1983.
In July 1992, Mortenson’s sister, Christa, died from a massive seizure after a lifelong struggle with epilepsy on the eve of a trip to visit Dysersville, Iowa, where the baseball movie, ‘Field of Dreams’, was filmed in a cornfield.
To honor his sister’s memory, in 1993, Mortenson climbed Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain in the Karakoram range.
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 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’ Northwest Frontier Province tribal areas, 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 enraged Islamic mullahs, endured CIA investigations, and also received threats from fellow Americans after 9/11, for helping Muslim children with education.
Mortenson is entrusted to the rural communities of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he has gained the respect of Islamic clerics, military and militia commanders, government officials and tribal chiefs from his tireless effort to champion education, especially for girls.
He is married to Dr. Tara Bishop, a clinical psychologist, and they live with their two children in Montana.
Hometown: Minnesota in 1957, but grew up in Tanzania 1958-1972
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