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Aug. 12, 2009

Contact Rick Kyte at 608-796-3704 or


LA CROSSE, Wis. – Greg Mortenson, author of the best-selling book Three Cups of Tea, will speak at Viterbo University Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center Main Theatre.

Tickets for the event go on sale at 11 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 27 in the Viterbo Fine Arts Center box office. Tickets are $20 for main floor, $15 for balcony, and $10 for overflow seating, with a purchase limit of four per person. Tickets are expected to go very quickly as Mortenson, who receives over 5,000 invitations to speak each year, is only able to accept a small fraction of the requests.

Mortenson will also speak that morning for an elementary and middle school audience and that afternoon for Viterbo students, employees, and members of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Three Cups of Tea, Mortenson’s fascinating and inspiring memoir, has sold more than three million copies and has been published in 34 countries. To honor the memory of his sister who died from a massive seizure, Mortenson climbed Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain, in 1993. While recovering from his climb in a village called Korphe, he 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 promise has a grown an incredible humanitarian campaign. Mortenson has established over 90 schools in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide education to over 34,000 children, including 24,000 girls, where few educational opportunities existed before. Much of this has been accomplished through the Pennies for Peace program (, in which school children collect pennies or other funds that is used to build schools, provide scholarships, and pay teachers, making the students active participants in promoting global peace. Since its humble beginnings in 1994, the program has grown to encompass thousands of schools and tens of thousands of students around the world. By raising money to build schools, provide scholarships, and pay teachers, children are active participants in promoting global peace.

Mortenson is also the co-founder of the non-profit Central Asia Institute. He has been honored with numerous humanitarian awards, including being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Tom Brokaw of NBC News described him as, “one ordinary person, with the right combination of character and determination, who is really changing the world.”

During his work to make the world a better place, Mortenson has endured tremendous hardships. He has survived an eight-day armed kidnapping by the Taliban in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province tribal areas in 1996, escaped a 2003 firefight with feuding Afghan warlords by hiding for eight hours under putrid animal hides in a truck bound for a leather-tanning factory, overcome fatwehs from enraged Islamic mullahs, and endured CIA investigations.

The title for Three Cups of Tea comes from the Baltistan proverb told to him by a villager. “The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you are an honored guest. The third time, you become family.” Three Cups of Tea is required reading for all U.S. senior military commanders and all U.S. Special Forces members deploying to Afghanistan. It has been read by General David Petraeus and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mortenson was born in Minnesota in 1957 and grew up on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He served in the U.S. Army and graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1983. When not overseas for half the year, Mortenson lives in Montana with his wife, and two children.

This event is sponsored by the D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership.

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