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Mount Everest climber to launch '06 Pillars series

Other speakers are basketball star, Juneau man who served in Iraq

Posted: Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The 14th annual Pillars of American Freedom series will kick off Wednesday with a woman who went from a life-threatening heart condition to climbing to the top of the world.

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Alison Levine, the captain of the first American women's Mount Everest expedition in 2002, will speak at 11:30 a.m. at Centennial Hall. Tish Griffin Satre, who chairs the Pillars series for Juneau Glacier Valley Rotary, she Levine will be an exciting place to start.

On April 26, the Pillars series will continue with Rob Wright, who recently returned to Juneau after serving in Iraq with the Alaska Army National Guard. On May 3, the series will conclude with Ron "Gus" Gustafson, who was a standout high school basketball player despite losing his right arm and shoulder in a farm accident at the age of 9.

Pillars of America Freedom

Speaker: Alison Levine

When: 11:30 a.m. Wednesday

Where: Centennial Hall

Tickets: $25; include lunch. Tickets are available from Hearthside Books or Juneau Glacier Valley Rotary members, or at Centennial Hall at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Pillars was founded to present stories of inspiration, of people overcoming adversity, especially for young people, Griffin Satre said. While 15 community businesses have purchased tickets for students to hear the speakers, tickets remain available today for all three speakers.

Levine "is so high-energy, and she has plenty of visuals," Griffin Satre said.

Born with a heart condition, her health was so unstable growing up that she wasn't allowed to drive a car or climb stairs, according to the biography put out by the International Speakers Bureau. After her surgery, she went on to climb mountains.

In addition to her Everest climb, she has scaled the tallest peak on five other continents and traveled on skis across the Arctic Circle for more than 100 miles to reach the North Pole - the geographic top of the world. At the same time, she suffers from Raynaud's disease, an affliction that causes the arteries feeding her fingers and toes to collapse in cold weather and puts her at greater risk of frostbite.

Levine also has a business career that has encompassed health care, technology and finance and earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Duke University, her biography states. She left Wall Street in 2003 to become the deputy finance director in Arnold Schwarzenegger's successful California gubernatorial campaign. Recognitions include being named one of San Francisco's top under-40 business leaders and one of the most interesting people from her native Arizona.

Griffin Satre said Levine has a "contagious" energy with an inspirational story that the Pillars series strives to present.

"We want people to be good Americans and see what it's like to overcome adversity," she said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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