The 37-year-old spoke at a University of Maryland fundraising gala on Saturday, his first public appearance since the surgery, according the a hospital spokesman.
"Thank you for the years spent preparing to give me a new life," he said, according to CNN affiliate WJZ.
In memory of the deceased donor, he said, "Thank you, Joshua. We will always be grateful to you and your family for this gift of life."
Carmen Blandin Tarleton
Surgery: February 2013
Carmen Blandin Tarleton became disfigured after her estranged husband doused her with industrial-strength lye. The lye burned more than 80% of her body, and the burns went all the way through her skin. Children would run away from her because of her appearance.
Tarleton was approved for a full facial transplant in December 2011, and it took 14 months to find a donor. The transplant surgery, performed by specialists at Brigham and Women's Hospital, took 15 hours.
Today, Tarleton is completely blind in one eye and partially blind in the other, but she is still able to live on her own in her apartment in Vermont.
She told CNN she especially looks forward to gaining the strength and coordination to kiss the man she calls "the love of my life."
"I can't pucker and feel yet," she said. "But I am looking forward to that day. I know that day will come."