The final day of Phi Theta Kappa’s 46th Honors Institute brought attendees a fascinating presentation by an author and anthropologist and ended with a lot of comedic relief.
The Sixth General Session featured Dr. Temple Grandin delivering the Freeman Lecture, which honors Dr. Joyce Freeman and Dr. Janice Freeman. The Freeman twins are Phi Theta Kappa alumna, retired chapter and alumni advisors and Phi Theta Kappa Foundation Trustees. The Texas residents have served as members of the Phi Theta Kappa Board of Directors; they have received Board of Directors Alumni Achievement Awards; and they have been named Distinguished Alumni.
Grandin didn’t speak until she was three and a half years old, communicating instead by screaming, peeping and humming. She was diagnosed with autism in 1950, which at the time was a virtual death sentence to achievement or productivity in life.
“Many talented, quirky, gifted students are going nowhere because they don’t have mentors to channel them into challenging careers,” Grandin said as she told of how she learned to use her autistic mind as she grew up.
Despite her diagnosis, Grandin prevailed. She developed her talents into a successful career as a livestock-handling equipment designer – one of only a few in the United States – and has designed the facilities in which half the cattle in the country are handled. She has consulted to firms such as Burger King and McDonald’s.
She is also the author of several books, including Animals Make Us Human and Emergence: Labeled Autistic. Grandin was recently portrayed by actress Claire Danes in the TV movie biopic, “Temple Grandin.”
“It was amazing,” member Katrina Soper of Montcalm Community College in Michigan said of Grandin’s presentation. “I’ve working with cattle and animals all my life, and I’ve noticed a lot about how things around the cattle make all the difference.
“It’s inspiring how someone with such a disability has come so far. It gives a lot of people hope.”
The day ended on a high note as The Capitol Steps took the stage for the Modschiedler Lecture, which recognizes the contributions of Dr. John Modschiedler, who was advisor emeritus at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. During his 15 years as advisor, the chapter grew to be the largest in the entire Society. His is an ordained minister, he teaches courses in religion and ethics, and he is credited as being the first to call Honors Institute the “crown jewel” that it is.
The Capitol Steps put the “mock” in democracy. What began as entertainment for a Senate office Christmas party has grown into a 30-member performance troupe in Washington, D.C., that takes to the stage twice a week to poke fun at the latest political news and scandals.
“I’ve never seen them before tonight, but I’ve already recommended them to somebody,” said member Sarin Hoogeveen, also of Montcalm Community College, who was attending her first Honors Institute. “I’ve learned so much this week, and I think I’ve grown a lot too. It’s hard to explain.
“This experience has taught me some really amazing things that I can now take back to my chapter.”