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Dole Institute to honor Dr. Temple Grandin with Dole Leadership Prize

Dr. Temple Grandin

LAWRENCE – The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas has announced that it will honor advocate for autistic persons and Professor of Animal Science Temple Grandin with the 2019 Dole Leadership Prize.

Grandin will accept the award at a public program at the institute on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. The program will be free and open to the public. A live stream of the event will be available at

“Temple Grandin is a trailblazer,” Dole Institute Director Bill Lacy said. “She not only overcame widespread ignorance about autism and helped lessen the stigma around it, she used the challenges she faced to bring an entirely new perspective to how domestic animals are cared for and treated.”

Diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Grandin did not speak until she was four. Despite her childhood doctor’s belief that she was brain-damaged, a common misunderstanding in the 1940s, she went on to earn a degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce College in 1970, a master’s degree in animal science from Arizona State University, and her doctorate in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989. Today she teaches courses on livestock behavior at Colorado State University and consults with the livestock industry on facility design, livestock handling, and animal welfare.

Grandin has described in detail her hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli and how this can make socializing painful. Her ability to articulate the daily challenges she faces as an autistic person with such depth and clarity challenged the preconceived notions held by society about what autism spectrum disorder is and how it impacts the people who are on that spectrum. Grandin has lectured widely about the anxiety of feeling threatened by her surroundings, and how this helped her approach animal husbandry from a unique perspective.

Grandin fights for “neurodiversity,” opposing the idea of a “cure” for autism. “Who do you think made the first stone spear?” she famously asked. “That wasn’t the yakkity yaks sitting around the campfire. It was some Asperger sitting in the back of a cave figuring out how to chip rocks into spearheads. Without some autistic traits, you wouldn’t even have a recording device to record this conversation on.”

In 2010, HBO made a semi-autobiographical movie about her life, starring Claire Danes in the leading role. The movie, titled Temple Grandin, was nominated for 15 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning seven, including Outstanding Television Movie and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for Danes. Time named Grandin to its Time 100 in the same year.

The Dole Leadership Prize is awarded annually to an individual or group whose public service leadership inspires others. The award includes a $25,000 cash award. Previous winners of the Dole Leadership Prize include Nelson Mandela, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, former Polish President Lech Walesa, Congressman John Lewis, former Secretary of State James Baker, and former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics is dedicated to promoting political and civic participation as well as civil discourse in a bipartisan, philosophically balanced manner. It is located on KU’s West Campus and houses the Dole Archive and Special Collections. Through its robust public programming, congressional archive and museum, the Dole Institute strives to celebrate public service and the legacies of U.S. Senators Bob Dole and Elizabeth Dole.

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