Marc Edwards honored with Hoover Humanitarian Medal

Marc Edwards, University Distinguished Professor in the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech, will be awarded the 71st Hoover Humanitarian Medal at the American Society of Civil Engineers annual meeting Oct. 12 in Miami, Florida.

The award recognizes “great, unselfish, non-technical acts by engineers,” who have “advanced the well-being of humanity” and contributed to “development of a richer and more enduring civilization,” according to the society’s website.

Edwards, who joined the Virginia Tech community in 1997, is being honored for tenacious investigative science research that exposed environmental injustices in Washington, D.C.; Flint, Michigan; Denmark, South Carolina; and related work in dozens of other communities that helped assuage concerns about water quality.

By melding citizen science, applied ethics, investigative journalism, and activism if environmental crimes were revealed, Edwards helped instigate over a half billion dollars of relief funding, congressional hearings, criminal charges, new regulations, lawsuits, documentary films, and national conversations about antiquated water infrastructure and the role of scientists in society. 

His volunteer efforts were largely self-funded and in direct collaboration with citizen scientists and parents of affected children – exposing the truth in the face of government intransigence. His decade-long battle to expose health harm from drinking water in Washington, D.C., was previously recognized by the IEEE Barus Award for “courageously defending the public interest at great personal risk” and a MacArthur genius grant in 2008.

Edwards was named amongst TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential people in the World, the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders by Fortune Magazine, Politico Magazine’s Top 50 Visionaries who have transformed American politics, Foreign Policy Magazines 100 World’s Greatest Thinkers, and was short-listed amongst Flint whistleblowers as Time person of the year. He was co-recipient of the inaugural 2017 MIT Disobedience Award and most recently received the AAAS Scientific Freedom and Responsibility award.

Herbert Hoover accepted the first medal in 1930, stipulated its purpose: to “mark the public service of individuals who have gone outside of their strictly professional work to interest themselves in civic and humanitarian affairs.” Previous recipients include Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, David Packard, and Stephen Wozniak.

Edwards earned a bachelor’s degree in biophysics from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1986 and master’s and doctoral degrees in environmental engineering at the University of Washington in 1988 and 1991, respectively.