Philosophy major Ted Donovan on his Unconventional Path to Excellence

Edward Donovan, or “Ted!” as his peers know him, is a senior who looks forward to graduating with an impressive and multi-faceted record of accomplishments. Although known to be a rather understated and humble individual, Ted Donovan wears many hats as a double major in philosophy and health studies, Vice President of the URI Philosophy Club, a volunteer firefighter, an internationally traveled vocalist with the Chorus of Westerly, an avid outdoorsman, and this year’s recipient of the Academic Excellence Award in philosophy, to keep the list short. No, this was not an easy journey for Ted. As a self-described high school dropout due to chronic migraines, Ted recounts: “From there I ended up kind of seeking out opportunities on my own, so I ended up getting internships.” He earned his GED at 18 and spent three years at CCRI. During his transition from CCRI to URI, Ted took a philosophy course with a Providence College professor who also taught philosophy to prisoners. “I knew I was hooked,” Ted says, as he realized studying philosophy was “an impactful way that people improve their lives, which was kind of what I was aiming at with public health. How do we all live better lives?”

Upon pursuing his studies at URI, Ted was the primary caretaker for his terminally ill father while also working multiple jobs. Ted proved resilient in his education and learned to appreciate the practical application philosophy has. “The skills I have learned in philosophy have helped me in every internship I’ve had. The soft skills, which are how you end up getting and retaining jobs, and the things not so technically taught are what you gain from philosophy,” he says. His lessons in philosophy have seen significant overlap with his work in health studies due to their mutual aim at human thriving in part because, as he says, “health studies and public health in general are inherently tied to social justice.” Ted continues, “The synthesis of the two gives me a unique perspective into how to best perform as a professional in my field.” He further credits philosophy as being the most important and transformative academic pursuit during his time at URI as he shares, “I’m really proud of the philosophy department, which is part of why I’m so honored to get [the Undergraduate Academic Excellence Award]. It’s super validating to be recognized by a community I admire so much,” he says.

Post-graduation, Ted plans to continue to integrate his two majors in his career pursuits. He takes particular interest in working for the World Health Organization (WHO), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), or working on major climate change issues. He says his desire to do so is motivated by his interest in social justice causes as he adds “I think one of the ways that social injustice manifests in ways people don’t really think about is in international disasters,” he says. “Inequalities are more pronounced in situations of disaster than they are at any other time. Issues of privilege, class position, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, all of those issues are inherently worse when there’s pressure on for resources.” Undoubtedly, Ted Donovan will bring his education at URI forward with him in confronting those injustices.

~ Written by Sabrinna Fogarty, double major in political science and philosophy