John Mortenson has achieved great success in his field for over 50 years.
He has also been very involved in his community, holding positions of leadership in several organizations and serving as director for many of them.
Early Life and Education
John Nelson Mortenson was born on February 17, 1919 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and relocated with his father’s job throughout their early childhood years to Stubbs Bay, Watertown and Tonka Wood, Minnesota.
Mortenson was the eldest of ten children and attended Stillwater High School in Minnesota before going on to work in construction and remodeling.
He then joined the Navy and served during the Korean War. Subsequently, he became an associate professor at Wyoming Catholic College in New Richmond, Wisconsin.
After the success of his book, Three Cups of Tea, Mortenson developed a following and received $80 million in donations from donors eager to support Central Asia Institute (CAI), the charity he established to build schools for impoverished tribal communities. However, when Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock investigated CAI, Bullock found that its board–which included Mortenson–lacked adequate financial and accounting oversight.
As director of Washington Trust Wealth Management, John oversees the portfolios of high-net-worth investors as well as institutional and non-profit clients. With more than 26 years in this industry, he brings extensive expertise to bear on each assignment.
He serves on the Investment Committee for The Washington Trust Company.
Mortenson has extensive expertise in financial planning, offering clients advice on investment strategies, tax considerations and retirement plans. Furthermore, he is an accomplished technical director and pioneer of live multi-camera production.
He has written three bestselling memoirs that sold millions of copies and generated millions in donations for his charity, the Central Asia Institute (CAI). However, Mortenson’s boasting about his exploits helped him achieve fame; however, they tarnished CAI and its overseas program directors, made donors doubt its reports, especially those from local employees, and distorted lives he claimed to be helping.
Achievements and Honors
Mortenson is a concert pianist, composer and teacher involved in the international revival of historic improvisation. His influences range from Schumann and Rachmaninoff to Bach and Astor Piazzolla from Argentina; Oscar Peterson also contributed his jazz improvisations to this movement.
He is a faculty scholar at Cedarville University and leads The Demerits, Cedarville’s premier roots ensemble. Additionally, he performs and teaches American and Irish roots music on mandolin, octave mandolin, Irish flute, button accordion, five-string banjo, Uilleann pipes, and whistle.
In 2011, after I pointed out in Three Cups of Deceit that Mortenson couldn’t have reached Korphe by the route he described, Mortenson concocted an entirely different narrative. This one involved a suspension bridge he had planned to construct in Baltistan with CAI funds but which Balti workers claim was never completed.
Mortenson had a wonderful, close-knit family, including his four children. He was an incredible father and husband, an ardent Christian believer and dedicated community leader, as well as being an incredible friend and partner to many over the years.
His wife Bernadine (nee Hill) had a profound effect on him; they shared 59 years together laughing, traveling and appreciating life’s little pleasures.
Greg’s book, Three Cups of Tea, made him a celebrity and generated millions in donations for his charity, the Central Asia Institute. However, it also distorted reality about school-building missions in Pakistan and Afghanistan, spread offensive cultural cliches about tribal societies, and stained the reputations of his colleagues there.
John Nelson Mortenson was born on February 17, 1919 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to a family that moved around as job opportunities opened up during the Great Depression. Throughout his childhood years he stayed close to family while others moved away for school or employment opportunities.
After graduating high school, John began remodeling kitchens for relatives. Later he pursued acting and achieved international renown through his roles in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
He founded Perceval Press, a publishing house that enabled other artists to showcase their works. Additionally, in 2006 he received an honorary doctorate from St. Lawrence University – his alma mater.
He currently resides in Venice, California and owns a home in Sandpoint, Idaho. Additionally, he is an accomplished musician, poet, photographer and painter – his net worth estimated to be $40 million.