Montana State University

'Between a Rock and a Hard Place' selected for MSU 2011 freshman convocation

April 22, 2011


Aron Ralston, author of the book "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," and the inspiration for the award-winning film "127 Hours," will speak at the 2011 MSU Freshman Convocation set Sept. 7. His book is also MSU's 2011 freshman summer reading book and the One Book One Bozeman selection. Photo courtesy of Aron Ralston.   High-Res Available

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"Between a Rock and a Hard Place" by Aron Ralston, the inspiration for the film "127 Hours," has been selected as the Montana State University 2011 freshman summer reading book. Ralston will speak at the 2011 MSU Freshman Convocation, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept.7, in the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.

The convocation is free and open to the public. Doors will open at 6:45 p.m.

The book's selection means that it will be required summer reading for MSU's 2,400 incoming freshmen and will be discussed in classes and venues throughout the MSU campus next fall.

According to Greg Young, MSU vice provost for undergraduate education, the book has an extraordinary story of survival, and among its many messages are the significant personal lessons that come out of tragedy.

"We want our students to reflect upon many aspects of the book, including courage, perseverance, and the importance of self-reflection," Young said.

Ralston's story began in 2003 when he was pinned by a half-ton boulder for nearly a week in a remote three-foot-wide slot canyon in southern Utah. He narrowly escaped death by severing his right forearm with a dull pocketknife. After applying a tourniquet, he hiked and rappelled for five hours through Blue John Canyon before searchers rescued him.

"Between a Rock and a Hard Place," which documenting the experience, became a New York Times best-selling book. Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle adapted the book into the film "127 Hours." The film received nominations for the Academy Awards' Best Picture and Best Actor for James Franco, who played Ralston.

Ralston graduated as Carnegie Mellon University's top student in mechanical engineering in 1997, with Phi Beta Kappa honors for a second degree in French. He left his job as a mechanical engineer with Intel in 2002 to follow his passion for outdoor adventures in Colorado. Now aided by prosthetic devices that he helped design, Ralston has expanded his adventures to the world's great peaks, deserts and rivers. He is the only person to have solo climbed all 59 of Colorado's 14,000-foot-high mountains in winter and the only person with a disability to have skied from the summit of Denali, North America's tallest mountain.

Ralston's book is also the Bozeman Public Library's One Book-One Bozeman selection. The university and the Bozeman Public Library Foundation will sponsor several joint events during the week of convocation and throughout the month of September, including a discussions, movies, and activities at the library and around town.

Paula Beswick, director for the Bozeman Public Library Foundation and coordinator of One Book-One Bozeman activities, is eager to engage the community again over a common book.

"I'm very pleased to be involved in the fourth annual One Book - One Bozeman program and partner for a third time with MSU's Summer Reading program," Beswick said. "This particular book has very powerful themes of adventure, finding one's passion whatever that may be, and preserving - all of which will resonate with the college freshmen, as well as the folks in Bozeman."

Beswick said the One Book-One Bozeman committee is developing programs throughout the month of September with a variety of community partners and businesses. Details will be posted as soon as they become available on the Website www.onebookonebozeman.org and on the One Book Facebook page.

The September event will be MSU's fifth convocation. In 2010, MSU graduate Kevin Connolly, who was born without legs, talked about his worldwide adventures and making the most of opportunities, the subject of his book, "Double Take." Other MSU convocation speakers and their books have included Steve Lopez, author of "The Soloist," and Stephen R. Covey, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change." The first MSU Convocation featured Bozeman resident Greg Mortenson, co-author of "Three Cups of Tea."

ASMSU, the MSU Leadership Institute and the MSU Alumni Association have provided additional sponsorship for the event. For more information, go to http://www.montana.edu/convocation/

Greg Young (406) 994-6057, gyoung@montana.edu