A visit with Temple

A visit with Temple

Renowned animal expert Temple Grandin toured UF and gave a public talk about her life and experience with autism.

By Sarah Carey
Temple Grandin visiting the UF/IFAS dairy and beef research units.

Temple Grandin visiting the UF/IFAS dairy and beef research units.

An unexpected cancellation in her schedule, a connection between mutual friends and a bit of luck resulted in renowned author, livestock behavior expert and autism advocate Temple Grandin, Ph.D., visiting Gainesville in September to spend time with UF veterinary students and present a public talk to the local community.

Grandin’s talk touched on how her life and experience as a person with autism contributed to her personal and professional growth, leading to her becoming an expert in animal behavior and a key influence in the way livestock are handled. Grandin’s story was captured in film in an Emmy-award winning documentary in 2010, titled “Temple Grandin.” That same year, she was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.

Her journey to Gainesville started with a former UF equine surgeon, Dan Hawkins, D.V.M., who had long admired Grandin and hoped for an opportunity to meet her in person. Hawkins reached out to a colleague who works with Grandin at Colorado State University, where she is a professor.

“He said, ‘You won’t get her for two years,’” Hawkins said.

But he managed to get an email address for Grandin’s assistant, who passed along his request for a visit and relayed back Grandin’s reciprocal interest in coming to the area.

“Then I was out driving one day. The phone rang, and a voice says, ‘Dan, this is Temple Grandin,’” he said. “She said she had this year and most of next year booked, but had a cancellation and could be available on a specific date if that time frame could work.”

It did. After several meetings between Hawkins and various other college administrators, an itinerary was developed that included the public speaking opportunity, a tour of the UF beef and dairy units, a research-related informational exchange with various faculty members, a luncheon with representatives from the University’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, a tour of the UF Veterinary Hospitals and the Veterinary Community Outreach Program and a wrap-up presentation on animal behavior for veterinary students.

“Everything seemed to fall into place,” Hawkins said.