SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) — The doctor whose research uncovered the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, will give the keynote address at the University of Rhode Island’s 2021 commencement, the school announced Thursday.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha will give her remarks and receive her honorary doctorate virtually during URI’s main commencement ceremony in May. The university plans to hold in-person ceremonies for the graduates only and a reduced number of faculty and staff.
Hanna-Attisha was responsible for uncovering the Flint crisis, which began in 2014 when the city switched its water supply from the Detroit system to the Flint River, leading to lead contamination among children.
Linda Birnbaum, the former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health; retired Army Col. William Babcock; and Navyn Salem, founder and CEO of Edesia, a nonprofit that treats and prevents malnutrition in developing countries, will also receive honorary degrees.
“We ask our students to think bigger themselves, and these outstanding public and community servants are the epitome of this university value,” URI Provost Donald DeHayes said in a statement. “Throughout their careers, they have demonstrated courage, a commitment to the public good in their own communities and around the world and a thirst for lifelong learning."