Deep-Sea Explorer Robert D. Ballard, Ph.D. Named 2023 Recipient of the Hamilton Life Achievement Award

January 5, 2023

Dr. Ballard stands in front of blue and white ship with "Nautilus" written on the side in blue uppercase letters.
Dr. Robert D. Ballard

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Hamilton School at Wheeler is excited to announce that Robert D. Ballard, Ph.D., the Founder and President of the Ocean Exploration Trust and Professor of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, will be this year’s recipient of the Hamilton Life Achievement Award.

Dr. Ballard will be the 28th recipient of the award, which recognizes people who have used their learning differences to their advantage in accomplishing great things. Recipients, who have also included such distinguished individuals as polar explorer Ann Bancroft and paleontologist Jack Horner, serve as an inspiration to Hamilton’s young learners. Since its founding in 1988, The Hamilton School at Wheeler has provided students who have great cognitive ability, but who struggle with reading, organization, and study skills due to learning differences, with the individualized instruction that leads to success, all in the context of a larger independent school.

“We are thrilled to honor Dr. Bob Ballard as this year’s Hamilton Life Achievement Award recipient,” says Head of the Hamilton School at Wheeler Bill McCarthy. “Bob is not only an expert in maritime archaeology who has made several remarkable underwater discoveries, but he is also an individual with dyslexia who credits his learning difference for helping him become a successful problem solver and explorer. For all of these reasons and more, Bob is an ideal honoree for this year’s award.”

Dr. Ballard gained public fame in 1985 as the discoverer of the final resting place of the ill-fated R.M.S Titanic, and later for the discovery of the German battleship Bismarck and other ancient shipwrecks. However, he prefers to be known for the discovery of the first hydrothermal vents and their exotic chemosynthetic animal communities in the Galapagos Rift in 1977, followed by the discovery of high temperature “Black Smokers” on the East Pacific Rise in 1979. He is an Explorer-At-Large at the National Geographic Society, Commissioner for the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, and a Research Scholar at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He served in the U.S. Navy for more than 30 years and continues to work with the Office of Naval Research. As a pioneer in the development of deep-sea submersibles and remotely operated vehicle systems, Dr. Ballard has taken part in more than 160 deep-sea expeditions.

“As a person with dyslexia, it is indeed an honor to be the 28th recipient of the Hamilton Life Achievement Award,” Dr. Ballard says. “I see dyslexia as an amazing gift that made me who I am today and why I have become a great deep-sea explorer.”

Dr. Ballard will receive the Hamilton Life Achievement Award at Wheeler’s annual “Mind Your p’s and q’s” celebration on March 3. All members of the Wheeler and Hamilton community are invited to RSVP for the evening event. Earlier in the day, Dr. Ballard will visit with students in Hamilton and Wheeler classes, labs, and clubs, and he will also speak about his career and learning difference at a special all-school assembly.

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