Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, will deliver North Carolina State University’s commencement address on Saturday, May 12 at 9 a.m. in the PNC Arena in Raleigh.
During the ceremony, Chancellor Randy Woodson will confer honorary degrees on Edelman and Temple Grandin, a pioneer in improving farm animal health and welfare.
Edelman has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Edelman was the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar. She directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi.
In l968, she moved to Washington, D.C., as counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began organizing before his death. She founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm, and directed the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University before starting the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973.
Edelman’s many awards include the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize; the Heinz Award; a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. She received the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings. Her books include “Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change,” “The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours,” “I’m Your Child, God: Prayers for Our Children,” and “The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation.”
Grandin, an animal science professor at Colorado State University, is known for her work in designing livestock facilities and equipment. Half the cattle in the U.S. and Canada are handled in equipment she designed.
At age 2 she had all the signs of severe autism. Intensive speech therapy and teaching enabled her to learn to speak. Mentoring by a high school teacher and aunt motivated Grandin to become a scientist. She earned a doctorate from the University of Illinois. Her book “Animals in Translation” was a New York Times best seller and her livestock handling textbook is in its fourth edition.
Her other books include “Thinking in Pictures,” “Animals Make Us Human” and “The Autistic Brain.” An HBO film about her won seven Emmy awards and a Golden Globe. Grandin served on the Autism Society of America’s board and speaks to parents and teachers across the country. In 2010 Time Magazine named her one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.” She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016 and the Women’s Hall of Fame in 2017.