The steep, ravine-like canyon stretched 65 feet below 27-year-old Aron Ralston. The young adventure-seeker found himself in a treacherous position on April 26, 2003, forcing him to choose between a painful survival and a quiet death.
Ralston’s arm had become trapped under a large boulder. He spent several days trying to move the boulder, pull his arm out or break the boulder enough to free himself, all to no avail. After five days, running out of water, food and ideas, Ralston was forced to make a decision. He chose to live. In doing so, he had to amputate his own arm using minimal supplies and then had to make a climb down the canyon wall and find help.
Ralston’s story of survival is told often, whether in his autobiography, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, the movie, 127 Hours, that depicts his struggle or most recently, in speeches given by Ralston to groups across the United States.
On March 5, he will speak at the Amarillo Civic Center. Amarillo College’s Student Government Association chose Ralston to be the distinguished lecturer for 2013.
SGA President Mikhaela Sample said Ralston was an easy choice “simply because we didn’t have too many nominations, and out of who we had, everyone loved him.
“He was affordable, he was in the area and he fits our age group.”
Sample explained that SGA members hope Ralston will have a positive impact on student perspectives and will help motivate students and community members who go see him speak in March.
“Hearing him speak might help some people see that things aren’t as bad as they could be,” Sample said. “Helping students see that it’s important to overcome obstacles in their lives will be beneficial to them in the future.”
Engineering major Mario Villarreal, an SGA member, explained that watching a short clip of Ralston’s speech is what secured his position as the members’ top choice.
“It’s very interesting and upbeat,” Villarreal said. “I’m extremely excited to hear him speak.”
Student Life Director Heather Atchley said Ralston’s lecture fits well into the AC institutional theme, “the Power of the Ordinary.”
“His message is really great,” Atchley said. “It is one of the power of the ordinary and how ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.”
Ralston’s agent contacted Atchley to let her know Ralston would be touring in the area. The cost for Ralston’s lecture is $27,000, including agent and travel fees.
“It’s a really good deal,” Atchley said. “The total budget is $50,000, which seems high, but it’s such a great, strong event.”
Atchley explained the significance of having distinguished lectures every year. They have been an annual AC event since the 1980s.
“The event is not only a really great way to bring a reputable person to our community and bring the community members, employees and students together, but it’s also a good way to expose students to a variety of different experiences and opinions,” she said.
“All the money we make off ticket sales goes toward student scholarships. I think it’s one of the best programs that the college does.”
The scholarships funded by the event go to SGA members, whom Atchley also described as beneficiaries of the distinguished lectures in a special way.
“The SGA members get some good leadership and student development out of this program because they get to plan the entire thing,” she said. “They choose the speaker, they are in charge of publicity, they set up the civic center the day of the event, they pick up the speaker and they introduce him, so it’s just a really great experience all around.”