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Release: June 13, 2001

UI requests approval for design of new Honors Center building

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa is poised to become the first school in the nation to offer -- under one roof -- programs, services and support for academically gifted and talented students all the way from kindergarten through college.

The Board of Regents, State of Iowa, today approved an architect's design for a new building to house the Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development and the UI Honors Program. (Click here to see image of UI Honors Center. Click here to see site plan for UI Honors Center.)

The Honors Center building will be constructed along the T. Anne Cleary Walkway, east of the Chemistry Building. The Belin-Blank Center, a part of the College of Education, is currently housed in the Lindquist Center, while the Honors Program is housed in Shambaugh House.

Total cost for the building construction is about $13 million. Some $9 million in funding will come from private gifts to the UI, including a major donation by Myron and Jacqueline Blank of Des Moines made in 1999 to the University of Iowa Foundation. University earnings will provide the balance of the project budget.

"The new Honors 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," said UI President Mary Sue Coleman. "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.

"The Honors Center will not only house these two exciting programs in one building, it will also allow those programs to work together to form partnership programs for students from kindergarten through the undergraduate years," Coleman added.

The project was given initial approval in October 1999 when the Regents gave the UI permission to hire an architect to draw up a master plan for developing the site. In February 2001, the Regents approved the project program statement.

The new building will include a basement and six floors with a total of 58,700 square feet. It will be connected to a proposed UI Careers Center at both the basement level and the second floor level. The building has been designed to preserve trees along the Cleary Walkway. Five classrooms to be included in the Honors Center will be used by the Belin-Blank Center during the summer months and weekends. During primary university instructional hours, honors courses will have first priority for these modern and flexible classrooms, but they will also be available as general assignment classrooms.

The Honors Program, directed by Alice Fulton, professor of biochemistry, is open to qualified undergraduate students. The program serves more than 4,500 honors students, including about 3,500 students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The program offers academic support, including classes, seminars, speakers, a computer cluster, and assistance in applying for scholarships and jobs. Co-curricular support includes honors housing, social events, diversity luncheons, free tickets to arts events, and opportunities for volunteer activities.

The Belin-Blank Center, under the direction of Nicholas Colangelo, 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, pre-college 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. It also hosts 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 Belin-Blank Center is also involved in pioneering research of gifted and talented education, as organizer of the annual 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 brings together leading researchers and advocates to discuss the challenges and successes of gifted education in small and rural school districts throughout the nation.

Following Connie Belin's death in 1980, David Belin, Myron and Jacqueline Blank and Colangelo founded the center at the University of Iowa College of Education and named it in Connie Belin's honor. In 1995 the center was renamed the Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. David Belin died in January 1999. Including the 1999 $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.