Marathon Bombing Survivor Heather Abbott to Serve as FSU Undergraduate Commencement Speaker

Marathon Bombing Survivor Heather Abbott to Serve as FSU Undergraduate Commencement Speaker

Jul 14, 2015

Framingham State University is excited to announce that 2013 Boston Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Richard Wightman will serve as the commencement speakers for the 2015 undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies on May 17.

Abbott will speak at the undergraduate ceremony, which begins at 2 p.m. on the Framingham Town Green. As part of an annual tradition with her friends, Abbott was cheering on the marathon runners outside the Forum restaurant when she was struck by shrapnel from the second of two bombs that went off near the finish line. Following three surgeries in four days, she made the difficult decision to allow doctors to amputate her left leg below the knee.

Today, with the help of a prosthetic leg, Abbott is back at work as a Human Resources Manager and has resumed the physical activities she loves, such as running and paddle boarding. She has also become a certified peer counselor by the American Amputee Coalition and launched the Heather Abbott Foundation, which raises money to provide specialized prosthetic devices to others who have lost limbs due to traumatic injury.

The University will confer an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree to Abbott during the ceremony for her efforts to help others who have suffered through serious injuries.

“Heather Abbott is an inspiration and model of strength to anyone who has ever suffered through a traumatic injury,” says Framingham State President F. Javier Cevallos. “I’m certain our graduates will be inspired by her example of courage and resilience in the face of adversity.”

Richard Wightman, a member of Framingham State’s class of 1974 and the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs at the U.S. Department of Defense, will serve as the graduate speaker at 10 a.m. on the Town Green. Wightman is a retired three-star general who served his country with honor and distinction for 41 years, including two tours of duty in Vietnam in the airborne infantry. Wightman was serving as the Commanding General and Senior Military Representative at NATO Headquarters when he retired from the Army in 2009. In his current civilian role at the U.S. Department of Defense, he is the chief advisor to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on all matters related to the 1.1 million service members assigned to the Guard and Reserve.

Mr. Wightman is highly decorated, having earned the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, four Meritorious Service Medals, the Legion of Merit, and the Army Achievement Medal, among many others. In June, Framingham State will award Wightman with a Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award during Reunion Weekend.

“Richard has dedicated his life to serving this country with honor and distinction,” says President Cevallos. “As a proud Framingham State alumnus, his story of service and civic engagement will resonate with our graduates.”

The University will also present State Rep. Carolyn Dykema with its Citizen Laureate Award during the graduate ceremony. Created in 2010, the Citizen Laureate award recognizes a member of the community who has consistently supported FSU and the Town of Framingham. Rep. Dykema is being recognized for her outstanding support of higher education in Massachusetts and, in particular, her support of student veterans at FSU.

About Framingham State University

Framingham State University was founded in 1839 as the nation’s first public university for the education of teachers. Since that time, it has evolved into a vibrant, comprehensive liberal arts institution offering small, personalized classes on a beautiful New England campus. Today, the University enrolls more than 6,000 students with 58 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences and professional fields. As a State College and University (SCU), Framingham State prides itself on quality academic programs, affordability, and commitment to access for all qualified students.