Inaugurated in 1993 by the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, the annual Granville H. Sewell Distinguished Lecture honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to environmental health sciences. The lecture series was established in memory of Dr. Granville Sewell, who directed the educational programs in environmental health sciences at Columbia for more than 20 years. A man who served Columbia and society in many different ways, Dr. Sewell was internationally recognized for his great contributions in the critical area of water supply in developing countries.
Granville H. Sewell received his BS in Civil and Sanitary Engineering and his PhD in Developmental Economics from MIT. Before coming to Columbia, he was involved in economic and environmental assessments of construction projects in Turkey, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Korea, Panama, Jordan, and in many other countries around the world. In 1967, he joined the Columbia faculty, and in the early 1970s developed a new teaching program in environmental health sciences. He taught and wrote on a variety of environmental topics, including water supply and sanitation, always emphasizing the social context for environmental problems and their remedies. Dr. Granville Sewell died in December of 1992 at the age of 59, after a long and heroic battle with lung cancer.
Until his death, Dr. Sewell remained active in the department. He was known as one whose door was always open - both the door to his office and the door to his home - especially for students. His residence served host to students from around the world who attended parties and dinners with great regularity and with great affection for the man and his family.
Dr. Sewell worked tirelessly to provide students with opportunities for research and training in public health, opportunities to network with professionals in the field, and ultimately opportunities to find employment in positions that would be personally fulfilling and socially important. It is in this context that this lectureship was created, in the hope that this annual event would provide an opportunity for our students, alumni, faculty, friends, and colleagues to come together to learn, enjoy each others company, and develop new opportunities for current and future students.