ECU Reads - Three Cups of Tea

A New York Times bestselling author and founder of a quiet revolution will visit East Carolina University in March.

Greg Mortenson, co-author of Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time, will speak at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, March 1, in Minges Coliseum as part of the Cunanan Leadership Speaker Series. The book was the focus of the summer reading program ECU Reads and exemplifies the treasured virtues of the Pirate Nation.

“I think the committee chose it because it hit a lot of the ECU strategic goals, like it had the globalism piece, the diversity piece, the leadership piece, the health and wellness piece,” said Karen Smith, associate director of the First Year Center. “It had all these pieces … that really fit in with ECU’s mission and goals in this one book, so we liked that.”

Throughout the year, ECU students have put those pieces together in some creative ways.

In the fall, a teacup sale through the ceramics department raised more than $2,000 toward the Central Asia Institute, the nonprofit organization cofounded by Mortenson to build schools. The book prompted a panel discussion and was used in the Leadership Reading Circle. Other classes completed the ECU Challenge Course climbing wall and held a leadership discussion after the climb. It was a fitting exercise, since it was Mortenson’s failed 1993 attempt to climb K2 in Pakistan that led to his humanitarian efforts. He got sick during the climb, recovered at the Korphe village, and promised the children there he would help them build a school.

Since then, Mortenson has built or supported 131 schools that teach more than 58,000 children, 44,000 of whom are girls. He’s also helped to build bridges, fresh-water systems, and women’s centers.

All of his efforts are part of a powerful undertaking to transform the region. A nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Mortenson has said, “You can drop bombs, hand out condoms, build roads, or put in electricity, but unless the girls are educated, a society won’t change.”

Greg Mortenson

Greg Mortenson, co-author of Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time, will speak at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, March 1, in Minges Coliseum.

But changing society can be dangerous.

In 1996, Mortenson was kidnapped and held hostage in northwestern Pakistan for eight days, during which his only reading material was old issues of Time magazine—issues that covered the Iranian hostage crisis of the late 1970s. The author has also been investigated by the CIA.

Mortenson’s visit to ECU won’t be dangerous, but it will provide enlightening opportunities to the public.

A teacup display will be open to the public in Joyner Library and the Mendenhall Student Center. Two professors and their respective students from the School of Theatre and Dance will perform routines based on Mortenson’s book. Students from the Sadie Saulter Suzuki Violin program will also perform at this time. The show will have an audience of younger students from Pactolus Middle School and St. Peter’s Catholic School, who also will present a donation to Pennies for Peace, a program of the Central Asia Institute. Mortenson will also meet with university officials and student leaders, including EC Scholars and Teaching Fellows/Maynard Scholars.

"It’s important for younger students to participate because each generation inherits the challenges of its predecessors," said Thomas Douglass, associate professor of English and a member of the committee that organized Mortenson’s visit.

The author will be available during a book signing, where copies of his latest book, Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, will be on sale.

“When you hear someone speak, he adds more material or you actually get to hear his inflection and how passionate he is about it, rather than just reading it in a book,” Smith said. “You might not get that when you’re just reading it yourself.”

Mortenson is speaking as part of the Cunanan Leadership Speaker Series, sponsored by the ECU College of Business. The series is made possible by a gift from ECU alumni Steve and Ellen Cunanan. Matching funds were provided by the Johnson & Johnson Foundation. Additional support for Mortenson’s visit is provided by the ECU Parents Council, ECU Student Affairs, ECU’s First-Year Experience program, ECU NC Teaching Fellows, and the Maynard Scholars.

The following events are free to the public:

• 3:30–4:30 p.m.: The public can meet Mortenson at a book signing, where his latest work, Stones into Schools, will be available for purchase. (Cynthia Lounge, Mendenhall Student Center)
• 4:30–5:00 p.m.: Associate Professor Patricia Clark’s students will perform a play based on the children’s edition of Three Cups of Tea. Assistant Professor Teal Darkenwald’s students will enact an original choreographed routine. Sadie Saulter Elementary School’s Suzuki Violin Program will perform. (Hendrix Theatre)
• 7:00–8:30 p.m.: Mortenson will share his experiences in a presentation titled “Promoting Peace through Education.” (Minges Coliseum)