Boston Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott has been named the speaker for Framingham State University’s 2015 undergraduate commencement ceremony held on May 17 at the Framingham Town Green.
A selection committee, chaired by Vice President for Academic Affairs Linda Vaden-Goad and including Class of 2015 officers, chose Abbott unanimously.
Abbott was suggested as a potential commencement ceremony speaker by Michelle McGonagle, secretary of the Class of 2015.
McGonagle said the class officers were given the task of researching potential commencement speakers – “specifically speakers with a focus on social justice issues.
“I started to think broadly of a person that everyone would be familiar with and immediately thought of the Boston Marathon attack. The FSU community – as well as the Massachusetts community – was affected by the Marathon bombings and rallied to support victims, families and Boston as a whole,” she added.
While she researched survivors of the terrorist attack, she said Abbott’s story “stood out” to her.
McGonagle said she was impressed by Abbott’s ability to continue living an active life despite her injury.
“She continues running, paddle boarding,” McGonagle said.
She added, “Abbott has taken her tragedy and turned it into a positive for others.”
Kendall Valente, Class of 2015 president and a member of the selection committee, said she was thrilled that Abbott was chosen.
“She is a remarkable woman who has experienced firsthand a tragedy that hits home for a lot of the graduating FSU seniors,” Valente said. “This is an event that we will remember for the rest of our lives, and seeing the positivity and unity of our surrounding communities that has come out of it is remarkable. I believe that Heather Abbott will be able to show us that there is positivity and resilience in our lives that we often overlook.”
In a press release issued by the university, FSU President F. Javier Cevallos said, “Heather Abbott is an inspiration and model of strength to anyone who has ever suffered through a traumatic injury. I’m certain our graduates will be inspired by her example of courage and resilience in the face of adversity.”
While at the ceremony, Abbott will be presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree “for her efforts to help others who have suffered through serious injuries,” according to the press release.
Abbott, a Newport, Rhode Island native, attended the 2013 Boston Marathon as part of an annual tradition with her friends. While standing outside the Forum restaurant at 755 Boylston Street, right near the finish line, Abbott was cheering on the racers when the second of two explosive devices detonated. The bomb’s shrapnel inflicted traumatic injuries to Abbott’s left foot.
After three surgeries in just four days, Abbott faced the difficult decision of either letting her surgeons at Brigham & Women’s Hospital continue to try to save her left foot, or to have her leg amputated from just below the knee. After consulting several amputees, Abbott made the decision to have her leg removed.
Since her injury, she has created the Heather Abbott Foundation, which helps raise funds for amputees who need prosthetic devices, and she has been certified as a peer counselor by The American Amputee Coalition.