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May 12. 2012 7:36PM

Franklin Pierce graduation: 'Find your passion … '


Dr. Temple Grandin, who graduated from Franklin Pierce University in 1970, was granted an honorary degree by the school during graduation on Saturday. (Nancy Bean Foster)
RINDGE — For Franklin Pierce University, Saturday's graduation marked both the end of the line for the 2012 graduating class and the beginning of the school's 50th year.

Dozens of undergraduate and graduate students donned the traditional cap and gown and, led by bagpipers, marched through campus toward a ceremony to celebrate their educational accomplishments.

As trustee Lloyd Astmann asked the students to recognize their parents for the help they had given them, one graduate yelled, “I love you, mom.”

Astmann, one of the university's earliest students, a parent and now a trustee, said he has never wavered in his love of Franklin Pierce University and announced that the school is now embarking on a year-long celebration to mark its founding 50 years ago.

Another of the university's earliest students, Dr. Temple Grandin, was on hand to receive an honorary degree, as were the Rev. Gene Robinson and environmentalist Bill McKibben — people, Robinson said, who have all advocated for those who are marginalized.

Grandin, whose name has become familiar thanks her many books and a movie about her life starring Claire Danes, graduated from Franklin Pierce in 1970 in spite of being born autistic.

Throughout her life, Grandin has not only overcome autism, but has shown that being autistic is actually a gift that allows those with the condition to see the world from a different perspective.

During her speech, Grandin explained she is a visual thinker who sees ideas as pictures and was surprised to learn that not everyone sees the world the way she does.

“I used to think that people were stupid, but then I learned they just don't see the way I do,” she said.

Grandin has used her ability to work with animals, making the process of bringing them to slaughter more humane.

“The cows weren't afraid of getting slaughtered,” she said, “they were afraid of shadows. But nobody could see that.”

And she has used her experiences with autism to advocate for others with the condition and to push for a better nation.

Robinson said that the graduates should focus on others.

“Find your passion beyond yourself … ” he said.

“Nothing you do in your whole life will bring you more happiness.”

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