Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Levitt Center for University Advancement

25th Anniversary Celebration

It is my great pleasure and honor to join you at this wonderful and important celebration. The Belin-Blank Center’s quarter-century anniversary is truly a milestone, a testament to the excellence and innovation that the Center has brought to our university, to the people of Iowa, and to gifted and talented students all across the country and around the world.

We are very proud of the Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa. For two and a half decades, the Belin-Blank Center has provided excellence in programming, service, teaching, and research. It is one of the very best programs of its kind anywhere across the globe.

When people think of national and worldwide excellence at the UI, medicine and health care and the Writers’ Workshop usually come to mind immediately. But gifted and talented education is another signature program that sets the UI apart from other institutions of higher education and contributes to our national and international distinction.

One of the most important functions of the university in all aspects of its mission—whether in teaching, research, or service—is to identify a need in our society and fulfill it. That is exactly how the Belin-Blank Center was started—when Nick Colangelo sought to fill a gap in the educational world. In 1980, there was little research, training, or programming directed specifically toward gifted and talented students. So that year, Nick partnered with Mike and Jackie Blank and David Belin to fill that need. That first year, through the efforts of Colangelo, Belin, and Blank, seventeen Iowa teachers received training in gifted education.

Eight years later, the program became an official center, and today thousands of students, teachers, and families benefit from the leadership, advocacy, research, service, and instruction that the Belin-Blank Center offers to the world.

One of the highlights of each year for me is the annual Belin-Blank Recognition Ceremony. Students and their families who have participated in Belin-Blank programs in the previous year gather to celebrate the achievements of these remarkable children and young adults. We often talk about our children as our “pride and joy,” but those very things—pride and joy—are made so palpable on that special day.  The event is nearly electric as the families, the teachers, and the students themselves celebrate their achievement and accomplishment.

Many of the students at the recognition ceremony are from Iowa and the region, but I am also always moved by the international respect that is garnered by the Center’s long reach. Last year, I had the privilege of visiting Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan on an outreach trip. I was proud to share the success of Belin-Blank with our Asian friends on that trip, but also both humbled and thrilled to experience firsthand how the Center has touched the lives of so many around the world. With such global reach, it is no wonder that we recently congratulated Nick Colangelo on earning the International Award for Research from the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children.

The Center has provided steady and reliable educational opportunities to teachers and students both here at home and abroad over the past twenty-five years. But like all truly great organizations, it has never rested on its laurels.  The Belin-Blank Center has always striven to expand its scope and its reach, to continue to innovate, to grow new laurels. In 2004, for example, the educational world was greatly impacted by the publication of A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students, co-authored by Nick Colangelo and current Center director Susan Assouline. The Center has even worked on expanding the definition of gifted and talented, seeking to understand and provide for twice-exceptional students, those who are both gifted and who have learning, behavioral, or social impairments.

Although today we are looking back on a quarter-century of success, we also are looking forward. Today, the Belin-Blank Center is poised for even more success in its leadership and innovation in gifted and talented education. We are truly entering a new era, as we now have a new director, only the second in the Center’s history. Of course, Susan Assouline is no stranger to Belin-Blank.  She has been with the Center since nearly its beginning, and she has been an integral part of its spectacular success. She will bring both new energy to the Center and invaluable continuity to its programs. I could not be more confident of the continued excellence of the Belin-Blank Center under Susan’s leadership.

Such a remarkable organization, of course, is not possible without the partnership of many dedicated and talented visionaries. There are many, many people who make the success of the Belin-Blank Center possible. So today, we thank the Belin and Blank families, the State of Iowa, the Board of Regents, and our other private benefactors for their generous and ongoing support of gifted education and talent development. We thank the Center’s Advisory Board for their leadership and their wise direction. We thank the faculty and staff of the Belin-Blank Center for the incredible accomplishments they have realized. And we thank the many students, with the support of their families, who have participated in Belin-Blank’s programs. They are what the Center is all about, and we are proud and eager to serve their needs as gifted and talented young scholars.

The Belin-Blank Center is a true Iowa institution. Our state’s proud, nationally renowned tradition of excellence in education comes about because talented people like those in the Belin-Blank Center, and dedicated friends and supporters like all of you gathered here, work so hard and achieve so much.

Thank you again for joining us today, and I offer my best wishes and heartiest support to the Belin-Blank Center for many more years of innovation and success.