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.
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 those 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.
A native of Bristol, Conn., where he still resides, Fiondella was the first in his family to attend college. He studied political science in the Liberal Arts Honors Program at PC and received a law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1968. He began working as a computer programmer and systems analyst for Travelers Insurance Company while in law school.
Fiondella joined the law department of Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1969. He advanced through the department, becoming senior vice president and general counsel in 1981. In 1983, he was named executive vice president of the company, and in 1987, was elected president and appointed a director of Phoenix Mutual. He was elected chief operating officer in 1989 and given responsibility for all lines of business.
When Phoenix Mutual and Home Life Insurance Company merged in 1992, Fiondella was elected president and chief operating officer of the new entity, Phoenix Home Life Mutual Insurance Company. In 1994, he was elected chairman, president, and chief executive officer, positions he held until he retired from Phoenix in 2002. He now is a private investor and founding principal of JEROB Enterprises, LLC.
A business and civic leader in Connecticut, he is a member of the board of directors of Oxford Performance Materials and has served on the boards of several other corporations and organizations. He is a driving force behind the development of Adriaen’s Landing, a $900 million revitalization project in Hartford.
When PC established The Angel Fund to help students whose families were affected by the financial crisis of 2008, Fiondella decided that he wanted to “repay” the $900-per-year scholarship he received to attend PC — in today’s dollars — and committed to donate $6,000 per year for four years.
Fiondella and his wife, Carolyn, are the parents of two sons, Robert and Jeffrey, and have four grandchildren, including R.J. Fiondella ’16.
A native of New York, N.Y., Flanigan received a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts from Dartmouth College and a medical degree from Cornell University Medical 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.
In 2013, Flanigan was ordained to the permanent diaconate of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence. During his formation, he took his required theology courses at PC. He is a deacon at St. Christopher and St. Theresa churches in Tiverton.
In 2014, Flanigan spent two months in Monrovia, Liberia, during the Ebola outbreak. He helped to prepare for the reopening of St. Joseph Catholic Hospital, which had closed when its health care workers fell ill with 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, including gowns, gloves, hats, goggles, and masks. The hospital was decontaminated with bleach, and staff were re-trained in procedures for dealing with infectious disease.
Flanigan joined Brown Medical School in 1991 to help establish a network of primary care for HIV-infected individuals with a focus on women, substance abusers, and people leaving prison. He developed the HIV Core Program at the state prison in Rhode Island to provide care for infected individuals and link them to community resources upon their release.
Flanigan has been recognized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the HIV Medicine Association for his community-based work with HIV-infected men and women who are in prison, and for providing educational support to their children.
Flanigan and his wife, Luba L. Dumenco, M.D., have five children.
Weaver was one of six children born into a sharecropper’s family in rural Georgia. After completing high school, she enrolled at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., where she discovered a love of the performing arts while earning a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in theatre and secondary education.
In 1973, Weaver joined Trinity Repertory Company in Providence as an acting fellow, studying under Artistic Director Adrian Hall. She was with Trinity for 22 seasons. In 1994, she starred as Billie Holiday in Trinity Rep’s longest-running production, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill. She also performed with the National Theatre Company, The Globe Theatre, The Mark Taper Forum, and Off-Broadway.
On television, Weaver had roles in The Brotherhood, In the Heat of the Night, L.A. Law, Tales from the Crypt, and The Young and The Restless. In film, she starred opposite Jodie Foster in The Accused and appeared in Poetic Justice opposite Tupac Shakur.
In 2000, at age 50, Weaver received a master of fine arts degree in English from Brown University, where she studied creative writing. She wrote Menopause Mama, a one-woman play with music that tells the story of women and aging; Skips in the Record, a story about coping with Alzheimer’s disease that was awarded a Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Playwriting; and Silhouette of a Silhouette, based on the death of her brother.
A versatile performer, she has sung solo with her own jazz ensembles and with pop orchestras, narrated commercials, produced television programs, and shared her knowledge as a teacher at Wheaton College, Brown University, and Rhode Island College. She has directed productions and led theatre workshops in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and California.
She is a member of the Actors Equity Association, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Screen Actors Guild of America.
A native of Newton, Mass., Wein was a jazz pianist in his youth. After serving in the Army during World War II and graduating from Boston University in 1950, he opened a small jazz club in Boston. In 1954, Newport residents Louis and Elaine Lorillard invited him to organize an outdoor jazz festival, the first in the United States, which became an annual and enduring tradition in Newport and led him to establish festivals in other cities.
In 1959, Wein and folk icon Pete Seeger founded the Newport Folk Festival, and in 1970, Wein founded the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. He also pioneered the idea of sponsor association with music events, beginning with The Schlitz Salute to Jazz and the Kool Jazz Festival. His company, Festival Productions, has produced titled events for JVC, Mellon Bank, Verizon, and Ben & Jerry’s, among others.
In addition to his work as a producer, Wein is an accomplished jazz pianist whose group, Newport All-Stars, has toured the United States, Europe, and Japan, while featuring some of the greatest jazz musicians in history. His autobiography, Myself Among Others: A Life in Music (DeCapo Press, 2003), recounts his years alongside musicians Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Benny Goodman.
Wein received a Grammy Honorary Trustee Award in 2015. He has been honored at the White House by two presidents, Bill Clinton in 1993 and Jimmy Carter in 1978. He is a lifetime trustee of Carnegie Hall and on the board at Jazz @ Lincoln Center.
In 2010, Wein founded the Newport Festivals Association, a nonprofit that will allow the jazz and folk festivals to continue in perpetuity. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation recently named its Jazz & Heritage Center in honor of Wein and his late wife and business partner, Joyce Alexander Wein.