In our Storyteller profile series, we highlight the dreams, journeys and achievements of Doyon Foundation students, alumni and supporters. Profiles are available to read, watch and listen.

This edition of Storyteller features Doyon Foundation alumni Ronald “Ranch” Burgett II. A lifelong Galena resident, Ranch understands the value of seeing opportunity in obstacles. The owner of Yukon River & Road Transport, a construction and transportation business he started that specializes in heavy equipment and water transportation, Ranch graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). Ranch received Doyon Foundation scholarships throughout his time at UAF and the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). He lives and works in Galena.

DOYON FOUNDATION: Ranch, what insight do you have for students in these uncertain times, when some young people are taking longer to earn a degree or delaying the start of college? Your path to a degree is encouraging.

RANCH BURGETT: Before graduating from UAF, I attended UAA for a few years and in between there was a five-year gap when I worked in the construction and oilfield businesses as a roustabout and floorhand.

I realized that I liked working in that field. Around 2010, I decided to become a petroleum engineer, a career that involves designing and developing ways to extract oil and gas from deposits in the earth. I was in my early 30s when I finished my bachelor’s degree and my goals and life circumstances certainly changed since I first began college. I made a conscious decision to return to Galena and to be self-employed.

I enjoy working in a place I consider home and doing what I can to help improve our community and other rural communities as well. Getting my education certainly helped me gain confidence to accomplish my goals.

DOYON FOUNDATION: You recommend planning, persistence and recognizing opportunity.

RANCH BURGETT: Yes, that’s right. The biggest challenge I faced during my educational journey was dealing with what I considered failure in the middle of my engineering program. I had hoped to work for an oil company – it was my top choice – but in the end, I wasn’t chosen. I was an engineering student with only two years before graduation and not getting that job made me seriously doubt whether I should continue in engineering or change my major.

DOYON FOUNDATION: But you stuck with engineering – the thing you set out to do.

RANCH BURGETT: I gave it much consideration and decided to persist. Then, after graduating, the oilfield I wanted to work in took a downturn and my plans had to change again.

Eventually I decided to become self-employed. I’m happy with the decisions I made, to return home to start my own small business. Today I see my previous challenges as one of the best things to happen to me.

DOYON FOUNDATION: What’s the connection between a successful small business and continuing education?

RANCH BURGETT: Although I don’t have plans right now to go on to higher learning, that doesn’t mean I don’t support it. For what I do, I must consistently learn and improve each day. It’s absolutely necessary. I believe learning should be a part of any person’s daily life.

DOYON FOUNDATION: You’ve said that starting a business in the place you consider home is important to you. How so?

RANCH BURGETT: Simply helping my community, bettering it with the skills I have, gives my joy. For instance, I try to help where I can with summer softball tournament in rural communities on the Yukon River.

One of the best aspects of living in a small rural community is the willingness to help one another, especially in hard times. This is a cultural value I’m proud of.

DOYON FOUNDATION: Thinking back on your college years, how did Doyon Foundation scholarships help?

RANCH BURGETT: There were a couple of occasions where I was down to my last $50 in the middle of a semester and I wondered how I would make it through the rest of the term. It was a challenge to figure out. Doyon Foundation scholarships provided a little more peace of mind. They allowed me to focus on my studies.

I received a scholarship every semester I was at UAF and UAA. Every piece of funding you get as a college student certainly helps.

DOYON FOUNDATION: What connections do you see between challenges that students today are facing and ones that you encountered? Times are different, but uncertainties you mentioned seem just as pressing.

RANCH BURGETT: Given the hard times over the past year and the unknown future, I’d encourage students to stay optimistic, to help each other and your community.

In helping others, you tend to find real value and self-fulfillment. I’ve learned that the more I help in the community, the more help I received. That’s one of the qualities I love best about Galena – it’s so willing to help where help is needed.

And I’d encourage students to keep on learning daily. Work hard, remain persistent. Keep your goals in mind and do not give up. Whether you succeed or fail, the biggest takeaway is what you learned, especially from your mistakes, and how you’ve improved.

DOYON FOUNDATION: And for students who may be struggling?

RANCH BURGETT: It’s true that luck has much to do with success. But the thing is, the harder you work, the luckier you are. A businessman once told me that and I’ve certainly found it to be true.

If you’re struggling, just remember that anything worth having does not come easy. It’s supposed to be hard. Embrace the challenge and treat it as a chance to learn.

If you are interested in being featured in an upcoming Storyteller profile, or would like to nominate a Doyon Foundation student, alumni or supporter, please contact us at or 907.459.2048.