The Belin-Blank Center is seen on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Guest opinion: Honoring the generous donors behind the Honors Center

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Fear. My first meeting with David Belin and Myron and Jacqueline Blank occurred nearly 30 years in the past, but the memory of that primal emotion remains strong today. Of course, fear is a product of the unknown, and to my knowledge, I had never met a millionaire, let alone a millionaire whose generosity was to lead directly to what would become my life’s work and passion.

The moment I met Myron and Jacqueline Blank, along with their friend and Belin-Blank Center cofounder, David Belin (Belin’s wife, Connie, had been deceased for about a decade), my fear immediately was replaced by admiration. I appreciated their gracious and genuine attention to me and the center’s staff — and their belief in our mission of empowering and serving gifted and talented students, as well as their teachers and families.

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The Blanks and Belin were philanthropists who recognized what we could do with their generosity and trusted us to be innovative and groundbreaking, and they conveyed their gratitude for our efforts. Their visionary gift, which created the UI Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, freed us from the constraints of convention, a hallmark of education, and inspired us to develop a trailblazing model for service and program delivery for talented students and their teachers. These innovations led to additional gifts from the original founding families and their descendants — as well as new gifts from other equally generous and gracious philanthropists.

Throughout the past three decades, the Belin-Blank Center has grown programs and services for students and teachers. Iowans are at the core of our programming, but we serve students from around the country and the world. We’ve been competitive in our efforts for foundation, state, and federal grants, which were made possible because of those initial gifts. The Blank Honors Center never would have been built, and the Belin-Blank Center would not exist, without that initial philanthropy.

I acknowledge our founders every day. Now deceased, their generosity lives on; their gifts to this campus have affected tens of thousands of young people and their teachers and will continue to do so for decades to come. That’s the power of philanthropy. Fear is a useless emotion, but gratitude, manifested through stewardship of the philanthropy, is powerful and can change the world, one student and one teacher at a time.

­— Susan Assouline (1975 B.S., 1988 Ph.D.)

The Myron and Jacqueline N. Blank Endowed Chair in Gifted Education

the University of Iowa College of Education Director

the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development

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