Aron Ralston Inspires SMH Students to Persevere

In April, the Saint Mary’s Hall (SMH) community welcomed American outdoorsman, mechanical engineer, and motivational speaker Aron Ralston as part of the school’s Betty and Bob Kelso Speaker Series. SMH senior Drake L. had the unique opportunity to interview Aron before his presentation and ask him to share, one-on-one, details of his extraordinary story. Drake, his first year at SMH, said, “When I heard about Mr. Ralston’s visit, I knew it would be a one-of-kind presentation that would resonate with our student body.” Following his talk, Aron held a book signing where students could chat and take photos with the still avid outdoorsman and advocate for wilderness protection.

In 2003, Aron, an experienced climber, was canyoneering in a remote location in Utah when he became trapped between two boulders for more than five days. He freed himself by severing his own arm with a pocketknife. 127 Hours, the major-motion-picture adaptation of his book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, was nominated for six Oscars.

Aron shared with Upper School students his gripping story of courage, perseverance, and the power of the human spirit when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. He also imparted the lessons he discovered about the importance of examining one’s priorities and outlook on life, and how he found an appreciation for the value of relationships in overcoming challenges. He related to students by stressing that the will to love was crucial to the human experience. Aron encouraged students to open their arms to their “boulders” in life and let them be blessings from which they can learn and grow.

Thanks to the support of Betty and Bob Kelso, SMH is able to invite distinguished, special-guest speakers to campus each year to visit with students. The mission of the Betty and Bob Kelso Speaker Series is to provide students with opportunities to learn from and interact with leaders from outside the SMH community. To learn more about the Kelso Speaker Series and past presenters, visit