BLACKSBURG, Va., Dec. 2, 2008 – Two of Virginia Tech's most distinguished teacher/scholars -- Gary Downey, Alumni Distinguished Professor in the Department of Science and Technology in Society in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and Marc Edwards, the Charles Lunsford Professor of Civil Engineering in the College of Engineering and 2007 John D. and Catherine MacArthur Fellow -- will deliver the keynote addresses at Virginia Tech's 2008 Fall University and Graduate School Commencement ceremonies to be held Friday, Dec. 19.
Downey will address undergraduate students at the University Ceremony at 11 a.m. and Edwards will speak at the Graduate School Ceremony at 3 p.m., both at Cassell Coliseum. Approximately 2,500 students will be honored for completing their academic degrees at the end of the summer and fall terms at the two events.
Since joining Virginia Tech in 1983, Gary Downey has been a leader in building the new academic field of science and technology studies. Science and technology studies scholars develop ways of analyzing both the technical and nontechnical dimensions of problems involving science and technology, and they help society address and solve those problems.
Raised in a working-class family in Pittsburgh, Downey was trained initially as a mechanical engineer at Lehigh University. An interest in public controversies over science and technology led him to cultural anthropology at the graduate level, completing his Ph.D. at The University of Chicago.
Currently, he focuses on how acquiring different forms of knowledge challenges and shapes us as persons. He is best known across campus for his course, Engineering Cultures, which challenges students to examine their own commitments by exploring what it means to be an engineer in other countries. The course is featured in A New Agenda for Higher Education, recently released by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
In addition to 40 articles and book chapters, Downey is author of The Machine in Me: An Anthropologist Sits Among Computer Engineers and the multimedia textbook Engineering Cultures, and co-editor of Cyborgs and Citadels: Anthropological Interventions in Emerging Sciences and Technologies. He is co-founder of the International Network for Engineering Studies and co-editor of its journal, Engineering Studies.
He has been principal advisor to 39 graduate students and has received 15 research grants totaling $1.2 million from the National Science Foundation. A speaker in high demand, he was recently distinguished lecturer at the American Society for Engineering Education and World Congress of Chemical Engineering.
A strong believer in the fundamental importance of the research university, Downey maintains that teaching lies at the heart of research, and he has devoted much effort to the scholarship of teaching. He is winner of the 2004 William E. Wine Award for career excellence in teaching, the 2003 XCaliber Award for high-quality instructional technology, and the 1997 Diggs Teaching Scholar Award for original scholarship in teaching.
Marc Edwards joined the Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 1997, coming from the University of Colorado at Boulder where he was selected as one of 20 young engineering faculty in the nation to receive a National Science Foundation Presidential Faculty Fellowship.
Today he is considered one of the world’s leading experts in water corrosion and contamination in urban water supplies. Last year, Edwards was singled out as a recipient of the prestigious John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation fellowship.
His research is playing a vital role in ensuring the safety of drinking water and in exposing the deteriorating water-delivery infrastructure in America’s largest cities. He is also a consultant on corrosion problems with water authorities around the world. Edwards’ research passion has been imparted to his graduate students and is focused on improving the safety of drinking water in regard to trace contaminates, corrosion, arsenic, and lead removal.
The Virginia Tech Alumni Association recognized his scholarship with the Alumni Award for Excellence in 2006. And in 2007 he received the Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award for excellence in teaching, research, and public service, the commonwealth's highest honor for faculty. He has also been president of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors.
Edwards earned his undergraduate degree in biophysics from the State University of New York at Buffalo and his master’s and Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Washington.
Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 215 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 30,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $450 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.