“Ask Yourself: Are You Doing the Best You Can Do Today?”

She was part of the original Scholar cohort in 1952. Today, as she approaches 90, Betty Ralston gives advice on the essential question she asks herself daily, reflecting on her life and experiences serving others in Colorado, Europe, South Asia, and the Pacific Northwest, where she lives today.
Photo by Freddy Joe / © Fred Joe Photo 2023

What was the significance of the Boettcher Scholarship to you? 

When I applied for the Boettcher Scholarship, I never dreamt I would receive it. What it really meant was that I could definitely go to college. I had two older siblings who were already in college and there was no money available from my parents. I had a little bit of savings from working, but not a lot. So winning the Boettcher Scholarship was very significant to me financially. But something else also made it significant, and that was the challenge of excellence. I think I always felt the challenge to hold myself to a high standard as a Boettcher Scholar.

Tell us about your fascination with people of other cultures.

My interest in people of other cultures started when I was in high school in Grand Junction. I was active in the international relations club, which gave me the opportunity to build friendships with students from other countries. And as it has happened, building relationships with people from other cultures has become one of the mainstays of my life.

Photo by Freddy Joe / © Fred Joe Photo 2023

After my husband Ben graduated from CU with his pharmacy degree, he joined the military and was sent to Germany. We married there and I finished my CU Boulder business degree via correspondence. We lived with a German family and traveled quite a bit.

After Ben’s service we returned to the U.S. and bought into a pharmacy business, which prospered. Everything was going well, but as Christians, we began to question: is this what we want to do for the rest of our lives? We had an opportunity to go to Pakistan to start a hospital for women and children, so that’s what we did. We lived and worked there for nine years, and our children grew up there. We lived in an area of strict Muslim purdah, separation of men and women. Women wore complete covering garments when outside of their homes and would not go to male doctors. That’s why a women’s hospital was needed.

Ben was the pharmacist and hospital administrator. We made many dear friends and the Pakistani people were very welcoming. Life was not easy, but it was a great learning and growth experience. People everywhere have the same kinds of concerns about our families, jobs, marriages, parenting, and finances. One of the joys of my life has been learning from people of other cultures.

You have said that serving others is important to you. Can you tell me more about that?

Here in Portland I volunteered for years with an organization that provides food and clothing to people in need. I loved it, as we received people from all different backgrounds. That came to a sudden halt with the pandemic, but I also volunteered and continue to volunteer with an organization that helps prisoners who want to study the Bible via correspondence. I really enjoy that. I am also in contact with people all over the world through an online ministry website.

We have a wonderful family: three sons, eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. We enjoy living in independent living in a retirement center. It’s fairly large, with residents from many different ethnic backgrounds and beliefs. Living here provides a good opportunity to encourage people when they are discouraged or when they have a physical need. They do the same for me. We really like living in a place where we are surrounded by a diverse group of people.

As a member of the Boettcher Scholarship’s inaugural class with fascinating life experience, do you have any words of advice for current Boettcher Scholars and fellow alumni?

At first when the Foundation asked to interview me, I wondered what I would talk about. I felt that as a Boettcher Scholar I should be out in the world doing outstanding, amazing things. I feel like I don’t really fit that mold. But I believe that one important thing we can do in life is to build up the people around us.

Life is full of difficulties, as well as positive things. We, like everyone else, have gone through lots of difficulties living overseas and living in the U.S. It’s good to take advantage of opportunities as they come. Long-term goals are important, but it’s also important not to miss the smaller opportunities along the way. We should take opportunities as they come, step by step. And we should ask ourselves: are we doing the best we can do today?

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