The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

March 31, 2005

$1 Million Gift To Open Up Arts Avenue For UI's Belin-Blank Center

Intelligence can take a rich variety of forms. Some academically gifted students learn to read and write at an early age. Others grasp mathematics and scientific principles with minimal instruction.

Still others master the cello, demonstrate the grace of a ballet dancer or express themselves through oil paintings or poetry or song.

A $1 million gift will allow a University of Iowa center dedicated to gifted education to help students, teachers and parents across the country identify, nurture and develop such artistic talents.

Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan of Woody Creek, Colo. made the gift to the UI Foundation for use by the UI College of Education's Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.

Half of the money will be used to establish the Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan Scholarship Fund, which will provide scholarships for high-ability K-12 students to attend Belin-Blank Center arts programs. This fund will be in the form of an endowment; a portion of the endowment's earnings will fund the scholarships each year.

The other half will be used to establish the Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan Fund for Excellence in the Visual Arts, to be used by the Belin-Blank Center director to develop and build a program for high-ability students in the visual arts.

Bucksbaum Scanlan said she was moved to make the gift because of her lifelong involvement with the arts, which she sees as an integral part of every person's education.

"As a parent, I truly want my own child and other children to understand and benefit from the exposure to and the study of art," Bucksbaum Scanlan said. "As more and more art programs get cut from school budgets, I felt compelled to make a contribution to the Belin-Blank Center so that they could develop programs for children with ability and interest in the arts. My relationship with the Belin family was also an important factor, and I wanted to make a difference in an area that is important to me, in a place that is important to the Belin family."

Bucksbaum Scanlan has been a longtime friend of the David and Connie Belin family, themselves strong proponents of gifted education. David headed the Des Moines law firm of Belin, Larson, McCormick, Zumbach, Flynn and was named by the National Law Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America. He was appointed by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren as counsel to the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy (Warren Commission), by President Ford as Executive Director of the Commission on CIA Activities within the United States (Rockefeller Commission), and he served on the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. He was the author of a number of books, including "Final Disclosure: The Full Truth About the Assassination of President Kennedy" and "Leaving Money Wisely."

Connie was a teacher and served on the Board of Regents, State of Iowa. Following her death in 1980, David, along with Myron and Jacqueline Blank and UI professor Nicholas Colangelo, founded the Belin-Blank Center, and Colangelo was named director. David died in 1999.

Colangelo said the gift opens up an exciting new direction for the Belin-Blank Center, which already provides resources, outreach, training and programs for K-12 students in the areas of math, science and the language arts.

He said the fifth floor of the Blank Honors Center, whose sixth floor houses the center's administrative units, will be developed into a vibrant arts community and learning environment, with resident artists, art studios and classrooms and exhibits showcasing the work of artistically gifted students from throughout Iowa and around the country.

Colangelo said he is also excited about the opportunities for research on artistic talent that will be possible with the money. The center is a leader in gifted education and talent development research, and it recently issued a report about accelerated education (such as grade-skipping and Advanced Placement courses) titled "A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students." The report has generated phenomenal interest since its publication in September 2004 and was the focus of a lengthy feature article by Time magazine.

"The Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan gift takes the Belin-Blank Center not only in new directions, but to a new level of outreach," Colangelo said. "This tremendously generous gift provides the center with the resources to make the arts a focus of our future.

"For several years our staff has discussed, planned for and fantasized about creating a comprehensive national arts program that would help identify outstanding students in the arts, and provide them with the programs needed to develop such potential," he added. "This dream has become a reality thanks to Mary. The lives and talents of numerous young people will be greatly enhanced. I am most grateful for this gift."

The fifth floor should be ready by the fall 2005 semester, and a formal celebration is scheduled in early October. Colangelo said that Bucksbaum Scanlan has accepted an invitation to the event.

The Belin-Blank Center 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 it runs the 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.

Scanlan's gift is part of the UI's $1 billion comprehensive campaign, which will run through 2005 and is being conducted under the guidance of the UI Foundation. Named "Good. Better. Best. Iowa: The Campaign to Advance Our Great University," the seven-year effort is raising private funds to help launch a variety of initiatives across the university, substantially increase the number of UI scholarships and endowed faculty positions, support new educational and research facilities, build the UI's endowment and fund outreach and service programs to benefit Iowans.

The UI acknowledges the UI Foundation as the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the university. For more information about the "Good. Better. Best. Iowa" campaign, visit its web site at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,