Author Greg Mortenson shares “tea” with Kennesaw State students‚ speaks to more than 2‚000 on campus

"Three Cups of Tea …" author draws rousing response from KSU audiences‚ helping students raise nearly $13‚000 to help build a school in Central Asia.(For complete story‚ click on headline above)

Georgia (Oct 2, 2008) — As New York Times best−selling author Greg Mortenson tells it‚ in Central
Asian cultures sharing one cup of tea allows you to get to know a stranger; with two cups‚ you are friends; and with three cups‚ you are family.

Mortenson spent the day with the Kennesaw State family Oct. 1‚ having tea and sharing insights into his life and the exploits that culminated in the writing of his best−selling book “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time‚” published in paperback in 2007.

During three sessions — a midday presentation to about 400 students‚ an intimate afternoon tea with 25 students and an evening address to about 1‚700 students‚ faculty‚ staff and guests — Mortenson captivated audiences as he described how an “ordinary life of failures and disappointments” was transformed into one of extraordinary purpose and accomplishments.

Mortenson‚ who is 50 years old‚ appeared at KSU in conjunction with the selection of “Three Cups of Tea …” as the “common reader” for 2‚300 students in First−Year Seminar (KSU 1101 and 2290) classes.

A committee of KSU faculty‚ with student representation‚ selects a book each year for all first−year students. The common reader is designed to expand students’ self awareness‚ global understanding and perspectives‚ according to Keisha Hoerrner‚ chair of First Year Programs.

Co−authored by journalist David Oliver Relin‚ “Three Cups of Tea …” chronicles Mortenson’s journey from a failed attempt in 1993 to scale the world’s second highest peak‚ to his phenomenal success facilitating the construction of more than 78 schools in remote‚ mountainous areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

What Mortenson hopes his audiences will derive from his book and talks is an understanding that ordinary people can make a difference in the world. Failure‚ he reiterated‚ is often the first step.

“I had a 1.8 G.P.A. my freshman year of college and I failed the test to get my driver’s license the first time‚” Mortenson told his audience. “A Persian proverb says‚ ‘When it gets dark‚ you can see the stars.’”

Villagers from the town of Korphe in the Pakistani Himalayas nursed Mortenson back to health after finding him emaciated and confused. “My pants were ripped and I hadn’t had a bath in more than 80 days‚” he said. “Still‚ they invited me for tea.”

The villagers’ kindness prompted Mortenson to promise to build them a school. He says he witnessed groups of children writing with sticks in the sand‚ with no teacher at hand. He returned to Korphe two years later to make good on his promise.

At the midday session‚ students filled every seat in the crammed University Rooms‚ lined the walls and sat on the floor in the aisles to hear Mortenson and view slides depicting his mountain climb and encounters with the people of Korphe and other regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan‚ some controlled by the Taliban and the “opium mafia.”

At the afternoon tea sponsored by the KSU Alumni Association‚ Mortenson fielded questions from students whose professors have described them as passionate about the book and their commitments to raise funds to help Mortenson’s two non−profits — Pennies for Peace and the Central Asia Institute — build more schools.

Some 20 percent of the first−year seminar classes have launched fundraising projects as part of their required civic engagement activity. So far‚ KSU students have raised more nearly $13‚000‚ assuring that Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute can build a school honoring KSU. It typically takes $12‚000 to build a school in Pakistan‚ Mortenson said.

Among the students attending the tea were freshmen Kristy Montgomery and Kim Watson who came up with the idea to stage a world−record−breaking game of “Duck‚ Duck‚ Goose” on the KSU green Oct. 30. They are leading the KSU 2290 class activity that will try to top the record of 1‚400 players held by the University of Georgia.

“It’s great to hear someone who is inspiring‚ who makes sense and who’s willing to go into dangerous places to make it better for people‚” Montgomery said. “I’m glad to see that he places a premium on educating women. It seems a good way [to create change].”

Educating poor children is the focus of Mortenson’s life work‚ but he is especially committed to building schools for girls. He frequently quotes an African proverb‚ which says: “If you educate a boy‚ you educate an individual; but if you educate a girl‚ you educate a community.”

Arlean Haider‚ a KSU graduate student from Afghanistan‚ praised Mortenson’s focus on building school for girls. She has studied six years in the U.S under “The Initiative to Educate Afghan Women.”

“It gives me hope to hear him‚” Haider said. “Afghan women suffer a lot‚ but a bird without one wing cannot fly.”

Mortenson‚ who estimates he has visited more than four dozen college campuses and 400 elementary‚ middle and high schools in the past two years‚ made an impassioned plea for students to travel and see poverty first−hand.

“A lot of people are down on this generation‚” Mortenson said in an interview between sessions. “But I’m very inspired to know there are so many students — ones I’ve just met today here at Kennesaw –– dedicated to making the world better.”

His inspiration was not just for the young‚ however. Marjorie Magee‚ 82‚ of Marietta‚ attended the evening session that was open to the public with reserved seating. She read the book six months ago with her book club. “I was just fascinated by him and I wanted find out what’s happened to girls’ education with all that’s going on over there now.”

For more information about First−Year Programs and the Common Reader‚ visit

To learn more about Greg Mortenson‚ visit


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit