PORTLAND – Greg Mortenson’s best-selling book “Three Cups of Tea” is required reading for military officers who are preparing to serve in Afghanistan. His newest book, “Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, In Afghanistan and Pakistan,” debuted at second on The New York Times’ best-seller list.

Mortenson, co-founder and director of the Central Asia Institute and a finalist for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, will be in Portland on Monday to speak at the University of Southern Maine.

Bringing a world-renowned author and humanitarian to Maine was in large part the work of Michael Dubyak, chairman and chief executive officer of Wright Express in South Portland.

“He is my hero,” Dubyak said of Mortenson. “When you think about what he is doing, to have that kind of passion, it’s inspiring. He’s an introvert, but he is also a great humanitarian who is bringing education to the children of Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Mortenson will become the first speaker in the Wright Express Creativity and Leadership Event Series at USM. His talk will begin at 7 p.m. in USM’s Hannaford Lecture Hall. Proceeds from ticket sales will support university scholarships.

Robert Caswell, a spokesman for USM, said the lecture has sold out, but nearly 100 overflow seats will be made available. People in those seats will be able to watch on closed-circuit television.

“We cannot thank Mike Dubyak and the people at Wright Express enough for proposing what I am sure will become one of the most distinctive events of its kind in the region,” USM President Selma Botman said in a prepared statement.

In 1993, Mortenson climbed on K2, the world’s second-highest mountain, in northern Pakistan. After more than 70 days on the mountain, he and three other climbers rescued a fifth climber — an effort that took more than 75 hours and prevented him from reaching the summit.

As he began his descent of K2, Mortenson, who was weak and exhausted, took a wrong turn and ended up in Korphe, a small village. The villagers cared for him until his strength was restored, and the experience changed his view of the world.

Since then, Mortenson has established more than 140 schools and five dozen temporary refugee schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The schools educate more than 64,000 children, most of them girls, in regions where few educational opportunities exist.

“Teaching girls to read and write reduces the ignorance and poverty that fuel religious extremism and lays a groundwork for prosperity and peace,” Mortenson says in a magazine article on his website titled “Fighting Terrorism with Schools.”

For more information about Monday’s event, call 780-4714.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]