March 15, 2018

Batten Speaker Dr. Lilia Abron Challenges Students to Take On Environmental Policy Issues—Now

The video of Lilia Abron’s Batten Hour presentation is available here on Livestream.

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Editor’s note: This article is posted with permission from WVTF.

The first African American woman in the U.S. to earn a doctorate in chemical engineering told students at the University of Virginia that they’ve got a job to do.

Lilia Abron was a young congressional intern in 1964 who watched from a  visitor’s balcony of the United States Capitol as lawmakers passed the landmark Civil Rights Act.

Less than a decade later, she graduated with her doctorate from the University of Iowa—the first black woman in the field.

She told students at the March 12 “Batten Hour” that she knew as a young person she wanted to help people, but she didn’t exactly know how. That is, until she read Rachel Carson’s seminal book on the chemical industry and the environment.

“Somewhere along the way, I read..Silent Spring, scared me to death,” Abron said of the landmark book. “I had no idea that our world was in that shape. That’s when I knew if the world was going to survive, I was going to have to do it.”

Abron, now 73 years old, went on to found the international environmental engineering firm PEER Consultants, P.C. She reminded students that they have a key role, especially under the administration of president Trump, which has threatened many of the country’s environmental safeguards and policies.

“Yes, you all do have a responsibility,” said Abron. “The environment is all about clean water, clean air, clean land, and healthy communities. You have the responsibility to write public policy that ensures that and does not deviate.”

(photos by Carl Briggs)