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University of Iowa, Iowa State bestowing 4 honorary degrees

Autism, animal handling expert Temple Grandin among honorees

By Vanessa Miller, The Gazette

They’ve gone to the likes of actor Gene Wilder — whose roles included Willy Wonka in the 1970s film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” — along with George Gallup, founder of the Gallup Poll; former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray; and NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson.

And this spring, the University of Iowa and Iowa State University will bestow another four “honorary degrees” on individuals who’ve “demonstrated extraordinary achievements” in research, scholarship, education, art, activism, human rights, or innovation.

“This is really the fun part about some of our efforts,” UI Provost Kevin Kregel told the Board of Regents on Wednesday before it approved the four honorary doctorate degrees, to be bestowed at the upcoming spring 2023 commencement.

When asked whether the recipients will be at the graduation ceremonies, Kregel said, “That's a requirement.”

“They have to be present to accept the honorary degree at commencement.”


Iowa State is awarding an honorary doctor of science degree to Temple Grandin, an animal sciences professor at Colorado State University and autism activist.

She was born with autism in the 1940s in Boston but wasn’t diagnosed until adulthood — after enduring intensive speech therapy at age 2 and navigating ongoing challenges throughout her school-aged years. Meaningful mentors guided and motivated Grandin toward a career in animal science — among Iowa State’s most esteemed programs, ranking 13th nationally and 32nd internationally in plant and animal science.

Faculty from the ISU Department of Animals Science nominated Grandin for an honorary degree — given her prestige as a “world leader in the design of livestock handling facilities.”

“In North America, almost half of all cattle processing facilities include Dr. Grandin’s invention of a center track restrainer system,” according to the ISU honorary degree request. “She works with large feedlots and commercial meatpackers, including Cargill, Tyson, JBS Swift, Smithfield, Seaboard, Cactus Feeders, Costco, and many others.”

Among her many publications related to both livestock handling and autism, Grandin wrote the “Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines and Audit Guide” for the North American Meat Institute, and she’s been instrumental in implementing animal welfare auditing programs used by McDonalds, Wendy’s, Whole Foods and others.

“Her impacts on autism awareness and humane animal handling have been highlighted in articles and interviews in the New York Times, People, Time, National Public Radio, 20/20, The View, and the BBC,” according to Iowa State. “In 2010, she was recognized by Time’s ‘The 100 Most Influential People in the World.’”


Iowa State will award an honorary doctor of humane letters degree to Trudy Huskamp Peterson, the first female U.S. archivist. An Iowa native and 1967 ISU alumna, Peterson started working for the U.S. National Archives in 1974.

“She distinguished herself quickly, rising to team leader and then branch chief,” according to ISU’s degree proposal. “Within a decade, she was part of the senior leadership, first as assistant archivist and later, as deputy archivist and acting archivist, i.e., holding the top two leadership posts at the National Archives.”

As acting archivist, Peterson oversaw 3,000 employees and a budget of nearly $250 million. Among her accomplishments, Peterson opened the new National Archives building in Maryland; developed a nationwide computer network for the archives; and advocated for improved national standards for archival record descriptions.

Upon retiring from the archives, Peterson took a job as executive director of the Open Society Archives at Central European University in Budapest — working in Hungary and the Czech Republic before taking over as archivist for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Switzerland.


The UI is honoring artist Oliver Lee Jackson with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree for his “sustained creative work and accomplishments as a public scholar.”

Today, Jackson’s paintings, sculptures, and prints are included in the permanent collections at the National Gallery of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Detroit Institute of the Arts, and Saint Louis Art Museum, among others.

Two of his early abstract paintings were bought for the inaugural exhibition of the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art.

A U.S. Army veteran, Jackson got his undergraduate degree from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1958 and a master of fine arts from UI in 1963. He served as an active instructor and curriculum consultant from 1964 and 2012, shaping the creative work of artists as an artist-inresidence or visiting artist at prestigious institutions like the Art Institute of Chicago and UI.

Since 1982, Jackson has maintained a studio in California.

“His body of work and contributions to art education span six decades of activity aimed at in stimulating creative thought and making art relevant and accessible to American communities,” according to the UI degree proposal.


UI is bestowing an honorary doctor of science degree to Shirley Schermer, who founded the UI Office of the State Archaeologist Burials Program and served as its first director for 27 years.

She excelled in research, teaching, and public service over her career — earning national and international recognition for her promotion of “respectful treatment of human remains, especially those of Indigenous peoples.”

Schermer was principal investigator on 40 projects involving human remains.

“Shirley’s work in bioanthropology and archaeology is stellar,” according to the UI degree request. “Perhaps Shirley’s most significant contribution to the UI and the profession was her caring interaction with Native Americans.”

Comments: (319) 339-3158;

Iowa State will award an honorary doctor of humane letters degree to Trudy Huskamp Peterson, the first female U.S. archivist. (Iowa State University)

Temple Grandin

Honorary degree

Oliver Lee Jackson

Honorary degree

Shirley Schermer

Honorary degree

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