New York Times best-selling author Greg Mortenson came to campus Jan. 24 as the 2011 Frost Foundation speaker, but his book had been making an impact on campus since last summer.
“Three Cups of Tea” tells Mortenson’s story of attempting to climb K2, the second-highest mountain on Earth that is located between China and Pakistan, only to stumble upon a village that would lead to the beginning of a project now eighteen years in the making. After losing energy from the climb, the people living in the village of Korphe in Pakistan nursed Mortenson back to health. Mortenson said seeing the village children write their school lessons in the dirt with no teacher present was an image that will forever motivate him.
“Those kids really touched me,” he said. “I was so impressed. Here are some children. They are basically starving with few clothes. It’s cold. They asked me, “Could you help us build a school?’ So I made a promise.”
That was in 1993. Now Mortenson and his Central Asia Institute have built over 178 schools in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and the steppes of Mongolia for the purpose of making education available to poor rural children like those from Korphe.
“Three Cups of Tea” was selected as the Common Reading material for the 2010 freshman class. Jane Kucko, director of the Center for International Studies, was instrumental in selecting Mortenson. She said his message about the power of the individual was inspiring and was the reason why she and other members of the TCU faculty suggested it to the Common Reading Selection Committee.
“We love the message that the individual can make a difference,” Kucko said.
A small group of professors on campus have been using Mortenson’s book as inspiration for service learning projects during the last three years.
Communication Studies adjunct Jeff Giraud joined the group of professors last semester to promote Pennies for Peace, a donation program aimed at school-age children. Proceeds go toward Mortenson’s school building projects. Giraud said the total funds for the project raised through TCU involvement were $2,500. He said he plans to attempt a new service learning project this semester, but said he will still reference themes from “Three Cups of Tea.”