Animal behavior expert, autism activist to speak at CMU

Temple Grandin

Best-selling author, professor, autism activist and animal behavior consultant Temple Grandin will be coming to Grand Junction next month.

Orchard Mesa Veterinary Hospital and Strive, formerly known as Mesa Developmental Services, will host Grandin at the Colorado Mesa University Center ballroom at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21.

Proceeds from this event will go toward the Tom Melzer Animal and Scholarship Fund and Strive’s autistic program.

Melzer, who founded Orchard Mesa Veterinary Hospital and co-owned it with Nancy Hugenberg, died last September. The veterinary hospital and his family decided to start the scholarship in his honor. The scholarship will go to a Western Slope student interested in going into the field of veterinary medicine, Hugenberg said.

“The main thing the family wants is for this to go to a local student,” Hugenberg said.

The scholarship will be open to both high school and college students.

While attending a veterinary conference last October, Hugenberg saw Grandin speak and made sure she spoke with Grandin after the event. Grandin shared her contact information and after communicating back and forth, a date was set and everything took off from there, Hugenberg said.

This event is special to Orchard Mesa Veterinary Hospital for a couple of reasons. Aside from raising funds for its scholarship, the hospital also has an autistic employee.

“Once I confirmed that Dr. Temple Grandin could come, I connected with Strive,” Hugenberg said. “To me it just made sense.” 

Strive’s program, Audyssey, provides local services to individuals with autism. It offers support to help them learn new skills for communicating, problem solving, social integration and coping. The program helps adults with autism work on skills of independence, social skills, job development, counseling and behavioral supports.

Grandin will speak on animal behavior issues and humane handling of livestock, which Hugenberg said is her area of expertise. Audience members also will be invited to participate in a question-and-answer session.

Grandin’s autistic gifts give her a unique insight into animal behavior. She developed her talents into a successful career as a livestock-handling equipment designer. She’s written several books, frequently speaks about autism and the livestock industry and animal behavior, and is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Actress Claire Danes portrayed Grandin in an award-winning biographical film in 2010, and that same year, Grandin made Time magazine’s list of 100 of the most influential people in the world.

“We think she’ll be a perfect speaker to start this scholarship fund and raise money for Strive’s autism program,” Hugenberg said.

Tickets for the event cost $20 and can be purchased online at and at all City Markets, Orchard Mesa Veterinary Hospital and the Bank of Colorado.


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