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Release: Nov. 18, 1999

Blanks donate $5 million for gifted/talented building, programs

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Myron and Jacqueline Blank of Des Moines are donating $5 million to the University of Iowa Foundation for the Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted and Talented Development, $3 million of which will go toward construction of a new building to house the Center and the UI Honors Program, UI President Mary Sue Coleman announced today. The remaining $2 million will endow future Belin-Blank programs.

Including the $5 million gift, the Blanks have given more than $9 million in the past two decades to the University of Iowa Foundation in support of the Belin-Blank Center.

The Blank gift was officially announced during a special reception this afternoon at the W.A. Krause Center in Des Moines. In addition to the Blanks, the event was to be attended by Coleman, UI College of Education Dean Sandra Damico, Belin-Blank Director Nicholas Colangelo, Belin-Blank Associate Director Susan Assouline, UI Foundation President Michael New and Owen Newlin, president of the Board of Regents, State of Iowa.

The building will be constructed along the T. Anne Cleary Walkway east of the Chemistry Building. In addition to the Blank donation, the recently formed Belin-Blank Advisory Board -- chaired by Mark McCormick of Des Moines -- has pledged to help raise at least $3 million in private donations. The Belin-Blank Center, part of the UI College of Education, is currently housed in the Lindquist Center. The Honors Program is housed in Shambaugh House.

The project was given an initial green light Oct. 21, when the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, gave the UI permission to hire an architect to draw up a master plan for developing the site. The building would be included in the first phase of that development. No timeline for construction of the building has been set.

Coleman and New will propose that the new building be named after the Blanks.

By bringing the Belin-Blank Center and Honors Program together under one roof, Coleman said the University of Iowa will become the first school in the nation to offer programs, services and support for academically gifted and talented students all the way from kindergarten through college.

"Twenty years ago, a gift from the Blanks provided seed money for what would later become a nationally recognized center for gifted and talented children," Coleman said in announcing the gift. "With today's generous donation, the Belin-Blank Center -- working closely with the Honors Program -- undoubtedly will make the University of Iowa the nation's premiere center for students with exceptional academic ability.

"With their creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial skills, these students will create a ripple effect that will benefit the University of Iowa, and the entire state, culturally and economically," Coleman added.

Colangelo called the donation a "landmark gift."

"Their generosity and thoughtfulness will make possible a place and program that will enhance the education and lives of countless students and their teachers," Colangelo said. "The new Center will provide the research and training that will make the education of highly able students an exciting and fundamental part of the nation's schools. Iowa's reputation as a leader in education will be strengthened. The vision and generosity of Myron and Jackie Blank will be a legacy to the students and teachers of our future."

Myron Blank is president of Central States Theatre Corporation in Des Moines, and Jacqueline Blank is the corporation's vice president and assistant secretary. Jacqueline Blank is also a former member of the University of Iowa Foundation's board of directors.

Although the Blanks are not graduates of the University of Iowa, they are longtime supporters of the university and in 1990 received the Distinguished Friend of the University award from the UI Alumni Association. In 1979 they established a program in the UI College of Education to help identify talented and gifted students in Iowa, and in 1988 they -- along with the late David and Connie Belin of Des Moines -- provided financial support for the creation of the Belin-Blank Center.

The Belin-Blank Center, under Colangelo's direction, specializes in programming and research to meet the educational needs of exceptionally talented children and their teachers. It conducts an extensive roster of talent searches, precollege programs, teacher training workshops and counseling programs. It also has partnerships with programs in other countries, making it both a national and international force.

Additionally, the Belin-Blank Center has programs targeting teachers and students in nearly every grade level and from a variety of backgrounds. Its summer programs have drawn almost 10,000 students from elementary school through high school, and from both rural and urban areas, to

take part in hands-on programs in the arts, humanities, mathematics and science. Its Invent Iowa program encourages students in elementary, middle and high school to create inventions and other innovations. And this fall, 10 high school juniors from across the country became the inaugural class of the Center's National Academy of Arts, Sciences and Engineering (NAASE), a program -- the first of its kind at a major research institution -- that allows students with high academic ability a chance to move into the stimulation of university research and course work.

The Center is also involved in cutting-edge research of gifted and talented education. In May it organized the inaugural Wallace Family National Conference on Gifted Education in Rural Schools, which was sponsored by H.B. and Jocelyn Wallace of Scottsdale, Ariz., through their Wallace Research Foundation. The event brought together leading researchers and advocates to discuss the challenges and successes of gifted education in small and rural school districts throughout the nation and produced "Gifted Education in Rural Schools: A National Assessment." Currently, it is accepting papers for the Fifth Biennial Wallace National Research Symposium on Talent Development May 18-20, 2000, an opportunity for researchers and theorists from around the world to present their current work on talent development, creativity, and gifted education.

The Honors Program is open to qualified undergraduate students. The program offers academic and social events such as classes, seminars, speakers, assistance in applying for scholarships and jobs, and opportunities for volunteer activities to more than 3,500 UI honors students.