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Commencement 2016

Commencement 2016: May 15, 2016

​​​Heather Abbott ’03 to present Commencement Address 


Heather Abbott ’03G, whose injuries in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing led her to establish a foundation to help amputees obtain prostheses, will present the Commencement Address at Providence College’s Ninety-Eighth Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 15, 2016.

The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.

Abbott is one of five honorary degree recipients. The others are Robert W. Fiondella, Esq. ’64, a civic leader, philanthropist, and retired chair of The Phoenix Companies, Inc., a financial services and insurance company; Timothy P. Flanigan, M.D., a professor of medicine at Brown University who treated Ebola patients in Liberia; Rose Ella ​Weaver, an actor, singer, playwright, and teacher; and George Wein, founder of the Newport Jazz Festival and co-founder of the Newport Folk Festival.  

Heather Abbott ’03​G
Abbott earned an MBA from PC in 2003 and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Stonehill College in 1996. She has been employed as a human resources manager for Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems since 2007 and is founder and president of The Heather Abbott Foundation.  

On April 15, 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 lineman. The blast mangled her left foot, breaking her ankle and shattering several bones.

First Lady Michelle Obama visited Abbott in the hospital and gave her a presidential challenge coin, traditionally presented to wounded military 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 The Boston One 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 stand-up paddle boarding, running, and wearing high heels. 

Abbott learned that a prosthesis can cost as much as $100,000 and must be replaced every three to five years. She launched The Heather Abbott Foundation to raise money to help other amputees obtain the prothesis 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 tho​se in need.

Abbott was awarded the 2015 Woman of Courage & Spirit Award from Women in Higher Education, the 2015 Stonehill College President’s Medal of Excellence, the 2014 Spirit of an Active Lifestyle Award from the Orthopedic Foundation, and an honorary doctoral degree in humane letters from Framingham State University in 2015. She was named a 2015 “Woman to Watch” by Providence Business News

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