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Release: Dec. 29, 1999

Wallace Foundation gives $300,000 to provide AP courses to rural schools

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A $300,000 grant from the Wallace Research Foundation will be used by the University of Iowa's Belin-Blank Center to beam advance placement courses to academically gifted students in rural schools throughout Iowa.

The Iowa Communications Network Academy will use its fiber optic network to deliver college-level courses to students in rural schools, as well as training programs for teachers in delivering advanced placement (AP) courses.

Belin-Blank Director Nicholas Colangelo said the ICN Academy could also be used to deliver other college-level courses and special training to students and teachers in both rural and non-rural settings.

"The generosity and vision of H.B. and Jocelyn Wallace again put the Belin-Blank Center at the front of cutting edge programs," Colangelo said. "The focus on gifted students in rural schools is a unique program of national importance. The ICN Academy provides the State of Iowa another leadership role in education and technology."

Including the $300,000 donation, the foundation -- named for H.B. and Jocelyn Wallace of Scottsdale, Ariz., -- has given $1.7 million to the University of Iowa in support of Belin-Blank Center programs.

The ICN is a statewide, state administered fiber optics network that enables hospitals, state and federal government, public defense armories, libraries, schools, and higher education users to communicate via high quality, full-motion video; high-speed Internet connections; and telephones. The network has more than 3,000 miles of fiber optic cable reaching into all 99 counties in Iowa, putting every citizen within 15 miles of a video site.

Colangelo said the Academy, which would be operated out of four studios in a planned building that will house both the Belin-Blank Center and the UI Honors Program, will initially deliver some mainstream courses such as calculus, U.S. history and English language and composition. Eventually, other courses will be offered, especially in the sciences, including AP biology, AP chemistry and AP physics.

"The plan is to hire outstanding AP teachers to teach in the Academy on a full-time basis," Colangelo said.

H.B. and Jocelyn Wallace are longtime supporters of rural education whose Iowa roots run deep. H.B. Wallace's father, Iowan Henry A. Wallace, was U.S. secretary of agriculture from 1933 to 1941 before serving as vice president during President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third term.

H.B. Wallace said his family's support of such programs stems from its desire to give students in rural and small schools some of the same advantages enjoyed by students in larger, urban schools.

"A very high percentage of all the children in the state are in rural areas, that is, areas that don't have very big schools," said Wallace, who parlayed a childhood interest in chickens into one of the world's largest producers of eggs, Hy-Line International. "Second, I have a high regard for the agricultural part of the state, which is going to be represented in the rural area. Students in those areas should have the same opportunity for academic development as kids in the bigger schools."

In May, through a $300,000 endowment by the Wallace Research Foundation, the Belin-Blank Center hosted the Inaugural Wallace Family National Conference on Gifted Education in Rural Schools, during which the family donated an additional $200,000.

Colangelo said the Belin-Blank Center will use a portion of the $200,000 to establish a National Program for Gifted Education in Rural Schools to, among other things, make the Conference on Gifted Education in Rural Schools a biennial event, identify outstanding students from rural schools as "Wallace Rural Scholars" and support the ICN Academy.

"Frankly, the whole focus on rural gifted and the ICN Academy are original and exciting programs," Colangelo said. "There is no program focusing on rural gifted students, and the ICN Academy would be a national coup for Iowa."