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Villanova University Announces 2010 Praxis Award in Professional Ethics

Dr. Marc Edwards, Professor of Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech University, will receive Villanova’s 2010 Praxis Award in Professional Ethics

Sept. 28, 2009

VILLANOVA, Pa., Sept. 28, 2009 – The Villanova University Ethics Program of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences has announced the recipient of its fourth annual Praxis Award in Professional Ethics. Marc Edwards, Ph.D., the Charles Lunsford Professor of Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech University, was selected for the extraordinary professional integrity he displayed in protecting the Washington, D.C. community from misleading claims regarding health effects from high levels of lead in their drinking water.

The Praxis Award highlights and celebrates the contributions of a professional or academic in the field of professional ethics. The award will be presented April 12, 2010 at 5:00 p.m. in the Villanova Room of the Connelly Center at Villanova University.

“Marc Edwards was selected by the Praxis Award Committee because of his exemplary dedication to the ethical ideals of his profession as an engineer,” said Mark Doorley, director of Villanova’s Ethics Program. “Out of a concern for the public welfare, a central value of the engineering profession, Professor Edwards pursued what he thought was a highly dangerous claim about lead in the water of Washington, D.C.”

In 2004, Edwards was shocked to discover that fellow engineers and governmental agencies had knowingly conspired to hide the fact that drinking water in the District of Columbia contained unsafe levels of lead. With the help of his students, Edwards conducted extensive research, determining that water testing in schools and other research had been conducted improperly by those entrusted by the public to monitor water safety.

Despite many obstacles, including the risk of speaking out against friends and colleagues, Edwards demonstrated great moral courage in alerting the public to the extent of the deception and dangers at hand. Edwards’ subsequent investigation uncovered a variety of unprofessional and unethical practices by the Centers for Disease Control, independent research groups and the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority.

Time Magazine in 2004 dubbed Edwards “The Plumbing Professor” and featured him as one of the nation’s leading scientific innovators. In 2007, Edwards was named a MacArthur Fellow by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, receiving a five-year grant of $500,000 to expand his water safety research to other cities. He currently teaches civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech University.

Recipients of Villanova University’s Praxis Award must have accomplished one or more of the following achievements:

  • Excellence in fulfilling and embodying the ethical ideals of a profession
  • Excellence in connecting professional work to a broader understanding of the common good
  • Excellence in promoting and embodying ethical integrity in a professional field
  • Excellence with respect to research in the field of professional ethics
  • Excellence in terms of influence on the field of professional ethics through writing, teaching, consulting, and/or professional leadership.

For more information on the Praxis Award, visit

Villanova University, a co-educational Roman Catholic institution, was founded by the Order of Saint Augustine in 1842. A premier institution of higher education, Villanova provides a comprehensive education rooted in the liberal arts; a shared commitment to the Augustinian ideals of truth, unity and love; and a community dedicated to service to others. A wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered through the University’s four colleges: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering and the College of Nursing, as well as the Villanova School of Law. With a total enrollment that surpasses 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students, Villanova is the oldest and largest Catholic university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.