PROVIDENCE — Heather Abbott ’03G, whose injuries in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing led her to establish a foundation which helps amputees obtain prosthetic devices, will present the Commencement Address at Providence College’s Ninety-Eighth Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 15, 2016. The ceremony will take place at 11:00 a.m. at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, 1 La Salle Square, Providence.
Abbott is one of five honorary degree recipients. The others are Robert W. Fiondella, Esq. ’64, retired CEO and chair of The Phoenix, a leading provider of wealth management products and services; Timothy P. Flanigan, M.D., a professor of medicine at Brown University who treated Ebola patients in Liberia and is also active in Haiti; Rose Weaver, an actor, singer, and playwright; and George T. Wein, founder of the Newport Jazz Festival and co-founder of the Newport Folk Festival.
Abbott earned an MBA from PC in 2003 after completing a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Stonehill College in 1996. She is compliance/EEO and employee relations manager for Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Portsmouth, R.I., and founder of The Heather Abbott Foundation.
In April 2013, Abbott was struck by shrapnel when homemade bombs exploded along the Boston Marathon route. Blown through the doorway of a restaurant, she was carried to safety by Matthew Chatham, a former New England Patriots linebacker. The blast mangled her left foot, breaking her ankle and shattering several bones.
In the hospital, Abbott was visited by First Lady Michelle Obama, who gave her a presidential challenge coin, a token traditionally given to wounded service members and their families. After undergoing three surgeries in four days, Abbott made the difficult decision to allow doctors to amputate her left leg below the knee.
Her recovery was aided by the support of family and friends, fellow amputees, and strangers. They sent her cards and letters of encouragement, and donated to a special fund to help her receive customized prostheses. Through insurance and donations, Abbott received four different prosthetic legs. Just months after the bombing, she resumed work and independent living, along with paddle boarding, running, and wearing high heeled shoes.
Abbott learned that prostheses cost as much as $100,000 and must be replaced every 3-5 years. She launched The Heather Abbott Foundation to raise money to help other amputees obtain the devices they need to return to normal living as quickly as possible. She also became a certified peer counselor for the National Amputee Coalition, and a motivational speaker who reminds audiences of the power of positive thinking and the impact of compassion on those in need.
Abbott was awarded the Spirit of an Active Lifestyle Award from the Orthopedic Association in 2014. She was named a Woman to Watch by Providence Business News in 2015 and received the 2015 Woman of Courage & Spirit Award from Women in Higher Education. She also received the Person of Character Award from Bryant University in 2016. She has been the recipient of honorary degrees from Framingham State University and Southern Connecticut State University, as well as the President’s Excellence Award from Stonehill College in 2015.
Timothy P. Flanigan, M.D. received a medical degree from Cornell University Medical College and a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College. He is a professor of medicine and professor of health services, policy, and practice at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University and infectious-disease specialist at The Miriam Hospital in Providence. He also is a staff physician at Rhode Island Hospital.
Flanigan was ordained to the permanent diaconate of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence in 2013. During his formation, he studied theology at PC. He is a deacon at St. Christopher and St. Teresa churches in Tiverton.
In 2014, Flanigan spent eight weeks in Liberia during the Ebola outbreak. He helped to prepare for the reopening of St. Joseph Catholic Hospital, which closed when its health care workers contracted the virus. The Diocese of Monrovia and the Salesian Missions assisted Flanigan with his travel, and helped to ship thousands of dollars in food supplies and protective equipment to the zone.