Born in Minnesota, Mortenson grew up on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, where his father founded a medical center and his mother founded an international school. He began his humanitarian efforts after his sister died of a seizure following a lifelong struggle with epilepsy.
In 1993, he climbed the world's second largest mountain, K2, located in Pakistan's Karakoram Range, in her honor. On his way down the mountain, he spent time recovering from the climb in a small village. Before he left, he made a promise to the impoverished people who nursed him back to health – he would repay them by building a school in the village.
Mortenson's decision to dedicate his life to the promotion of education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan has had an extraordinary impact on thousands of young people in both countries. To date, he has established more than 90 schools, which have educated more than 34,000 children, including 24,000 girls.
Currently the co-founder and Executive Director of the non-profit Central Asia Institute, Mortenson wrote about his life in the critically acclaimed Three Cups of Tea, which spent 82 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller List. He is also the founder of the non-profit organization Pennies for Peace.
Overcoming many obstacles, including an armed kidnapping in 1996, a firefight between Afghan fighters and investigations by the United States' Central Intelligence Agency, Mortenson has received awards for his humanitarian efforts, including Pakistan's highest civil award, Sitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan). He was also recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Witt Series is a selection of cultural activities annually presented by Wittenberg University. All Series events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Jeannine Fox, Series coordinator, at (937) 327-7470, or via e-mail.
Written by: Jennifer Dick '10
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