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February 25, 2013
by Coleman Cornelius
Temple Grandin isn't Irish, but the famous Colorado State University professor will put on the green - and gold - to fill the role of grand marshal for the popular Lucky Joe's St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Fort Collins next month.
Grandin travels the world to discuss her pioneering work in farm-animal welfare and her experience overcoming personal struggles with autism. She is well-versed in public speaking, book-signing, media interviews, and accepting all manner of honors and accolades. She’s often stopped at airports and restaurants when recognized as the world’s most famous autistic person, and the subject of a highly acclaimed movie.
But the event on Saturday, March 16, will mark Grandin’s first time as a parade grand marshal. Grandin said she’s ready to hop aboard the grand marshal’s horse-drawn carriage to cheer on the local Lucky Joe’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the city she has called home for nearly 25 years.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Grandin, who began working in the CSU Department of Animal Sciences in 1990. “When I get asked to do local things, I always try to do them. I think it’s important to be doing things in the community.”
The downtown Fort Collins parade, sponsored by Lucky Joe’s Sidewalk Saloon, will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 16, and will travel a route about 1 mile long through Old Town. For information and to register a parade entry, visit the website.
The parade typically includes about 90 entries and attracts thousands of community spectators, said Peggy Lyle, assistant director of the Downtown Fort Collins Business Association, which coordinates the annual parade.
“Dr. Temple Grandin is well-known across the world for her academic accomplishments at CSU, and it is a great honor to celebrate her at this event,” Lyle said. “Temple is one of the biggest stars in our community, and we feel privileged that she calls CSU and Fort Collins home.”
Leaders of Downtown Fort Collins and Colorado State are proud of their town-and-gown relationship. For instance, during the recent holiday season, the university contributed to funding for the Old Town Fort Collins lights display, a twinkling tradition that had faced cutbacks. Meantime, the city’s frequent place on best-of lists – Old Town Fort Collins most recently was named the No. 1 downtown in the nation by Livability – is a draw for university students, faculty and staff.
Grandin is among them: Her research at CSU has provided new insights into livestock behavior, allowing Grandin to design humane handling systems, guidelines and auditing strategies used by livestock producers and meat packers worldwide. With her remarkable innovations, Grandin and has become a hero for people with autism and their families.
Grandin’s work in animal welfare is intertwined with her autism: She often says autism allows her to think visually – or to “think in pictures” – leading to a unique affinity with animals. This results in her problem-solving for the global agricultural industry and to humane practices that have built consumer trust in the food system.
In recent years, Grandin’s fame has reached new heights, with a constant stream of high-profile honors and media attention. In 2010, HBO released a biographical feature film called “Temple Grandin,” based on her early life and career. The movie won seven Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award. Also that year, Grandin earned a spot on TIME magazine’s list of “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
An acclaimed author and speaker, Grandin travels frequently to discuss autism and agricultural issues – but she’s always back on campus to advise her graduate students and to teach undergraduate courses in livestock handling.
One thing her students might not know: Grandin’s heritage is English and French. And while you won’t find her name on Irish stout, there is a French Champagne labeled “Grandin.”