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Greg Mortenson is the co-author of The New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea, co-founder of the non-profit Central Asia Institute (www.ikat.org) and founder of Pennies for Peace (www.penniesforpeace.org). The book has sold over 3.6 million copies, been published in 41 countries, and was a New York Times bestseller for more than three years after its 2007 release.  Education has become the means for Mortenson’s version of the war on terror: He has established more than 131 schools in rural, often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The schools provide education to more than 58,000 children, including 48,000 girls, where few education opportunities existed before.

Mortenson’s new book, "Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan", was released by Viking in December 2009 and debuted as #2 on The New York Times bestseller list.

Wilkes University students will launch a Pennies for Peace drive on campus and in the surrounding community to raise money for Mortenson’s schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The University’s Pennies for Peace campaign launches with a March 18 kick-off event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Henry Student Center. Area schools and members of the community interested in joining the Wilkes campaign should call Vicki Mayk, associate director of public relations, at 570-408-4779.

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 have nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in both 2009 and 2010. His book is required reading for U.S. military serving in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mortenson’s work in Pakistan began in 1993 when he traveled there to climb K2, the world’s second-highest mountain, in memory of his sister Christa, who died in 1992 from a massive seizure after a lifelong struggle with epilepsy. While recovering from the climb in a village called Korphe, Mortenson met a group of children writing with sticks in the sand and made a promise to help them build a school.

Starting with that promise, 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’s Northwest Frontier Province tribal areas. He has overcome two fatwehs from enraged Islamic mullahs, endured CIA investigations, and received threats from fellow Americans after 9/11 for helping Muslim children with education.

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.

Born in 1957, Mortenson grew up on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. His father, Dempsey, founded Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) (www.kcmc.ac.tz)  a hospital, and his 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.

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