TRU 2020 Honorary Degree Recipients


Temple Grandin – Doctor of Letters, honoris causa

Dr. Temple Grandin redefined what a life with autism can look like. By embracing her own autistic mind, Grandin has become the world’s foremost authority on animal welfare and livestock handling. While Grandin’s work garnered her industry recognition, it was her candor and resilience in “groping her way from the far side of darkness” of autism that brought her celebrity and influence—proving that autism can be guided, educated and celebrated.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1947, Grandin had no speech and showed all the signs of severe autism at age two. However, she wasn’t formally diagnosed with autism until her forties. The original diagnosis was ‘brain damage’ and the medical advice was institutionalization. Through her mother’s advocacy, Grandin was instead provided intensive speech therapy and educational guidance. This support led to Grandin learning to speak and begin school. Despite teasing and social struggles, Grandin found her passion for animal sciences under the mentorship of her high school science teacher and a formative experience at her aunt’s ranch. In 1970, Grandin gained her Bachelor’s in human psychology. In 1974, she began working as the Livestock Editor for the Arizona Farmer Ranchman and in equipment design for Corral Industries. A year later, she earned her Master’s in Animal Science for her work on cattle behavior in different squeeze chutes. In 1989, Grandin received her PhD in Animal Science. She is currently a professor at Colorado State University teaching courses on livestock handling and facility design.

When not teaching, Grandin is either consulting the livestock industry on animal behavior and welfare or lecturing about autism and the importance of supporting neurodiversity. Grandin has published hundreds of publications, book chapters and technical papers, plus 10 books. Her research, work and advocacy for both animal welfare and neurodiversity has garnered Grandin many accolades from the Meritorious Achievement Award from the World Oragnisation for Animal Health and the Lifetime Achievement Award from The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to a Double Helix Medal and the Ashoka Fellowship. Grandin has also been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, among others. In 2010, she was named in the "Heroes" category in the TIME 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She has also been featured in Time, People, Discover, Forbes and The New York Times. Grandin was the subject of the Horizon documentary, “The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow,” and a semi-biographical HBO film entitled Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes as Grandin. In 2010, she presented a TED talk on the importance of fostering different kinds of minds and thought processes among young people, particularly those on the autism spectrum.

Dr. Temple Grandin has made outstanding contributions to the humane treatment of animals and the support and acceptance of those with autism and neurodiversity. Her achievements exemplify the values of inclusion and diversity that TRU strives to foster in its students.

Mona Jules

Mona Jules – Doctor of Letters, honoris causa

Elder Mona Jules is a member of the Simpcw First Nation, a respected researcher and Secwepemcstín Language Instructor who has devoted her career to fostering and revitalizing her traditional language. Jules has encouraged the proliferation of the Secwepemcstín language through her lifetime of work and, more recently, alongside the Secwépemc Cultural Education Society and First Voices by creating a living database and historical record of Secwepemcstín. Throughout her career, Jules has worked as a Secwépemc language instructor, including her time as a sessional instructor for Secwepemcstín at TRU. Most recently, she rejoined Simon Fraser University through its Language Program at the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council to continue to innovate Secwepemcstín curriculum and help increase understanding of the language in political spheres. She has also contributed to the development of a Secwépemc language spoken calendar, dictionary, additional digital recordings and written curriculum. Jules’ efforts to reclaim and revitalize Indigenous language through education and advocacy exemplify the respect for Indigenous knowledge and the values of inclusion that TRU strives to foster in its students.

Vera Schiff

Vera Schiff – Doctor of Letters, honoris causa

Vera Schiff is a Holocaust survivor, educator and award-winning author who has devoted her life to spreading the message of tolerance and morality. Born in 1926 in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Schiff’s life was forever changed after Nazi Germany occupied the country in 1939. At 16, Schiff and her family were deported to Theresienstadt, a transit camp for Jews en route to extermination camps. Schiff spent three years in subhuman conditions, watching as her parents, sister and grandmother perished. She was liberated in 1945 by the Russian army and she and her husband left Czechoslovakia in 1949, spending 12 years in Israel before emigrating to Canada in 1961. In Ontario, Schiff worked as a hematologist at Toronto General Hospital. In 1991, she retired and revisited her tragic memories of life in Theresienstadt. She devoted her time to reflecting on and speaking about her experiences and has written seven books. Schiff’s message on the need for resistance and moral action has contributed to the betterment of humanity and exemplifies the determination and pursuit of justice that TRU strives to foster in its students.

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