The History of AAGC

The History of AAGC

The American Association for Gifted Children (AAGC) has been located in the Social Science Research Institute at Duke University since 2001 and continues the mission of the two pioneer educational leaders and founders, Dr. Ruth Strang and Miss Pauline Williamson who believed that "the gifted were the most neglected children in our democracy." Strang and Williamson incorporated AAGC in 1946 in New York as the first voluntary non-profit organization in the United States devoted exclusively to the needs of gifted, talented and creative children.  Dr. Harold Clark, an educational leader and economist, was elected as the first president and led the Association during the first twenty-five years.  Charles Coburn, Actor, was named Honorary President. Steve Allen, musician and entertainer was among the distinguished advisors for AAGC.

AAGC’s mission today is focused on both the highly gifted and on children who are underserved in advanced and gifted programs.  These underserved groups include children who have limited English language experiences, economic disadvantages, educational disadvantages, disabilities, or factors that make it difficult to demonstrate potential on traditional identification measures of talented and gifted. They have historically been (and continue to be) under-represented in gifted programs.

AAGC is an advocacy organization and collaborates with other research groups at Duke and with the Exceptional Children Division of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to carry out the mission and goals of the organization. AAGC is currently collaborating with a new center on Research Education and Development of Youth (REDY) and local school districts to conduct research on a Javits Education Nurturing Program to close the achievement gap and to increase identification of students for gifted programs from underserved groups.

Since coming to Duke University in 1989, AAGC has been affiliated with the Talent Identification Program (TIP), the Center for Child and Family Policy and the Research Network on Racial and Ethnic Inequality at Duke University.

Historical Timeline

September 6, 1946 – Organized as a Non-Profit in New York as The American Association for Gifted Children.  Stated purposes included:

To recognize, appreciate, and stimulate creative work among gifted children.

To review what is being done for gifted children.

To organize a junior committee of gifted children.

To visit schools and observe gifted children at work.

To correspond with leaders in different fields, schools and industry, and to press for opportunities for gifted children.

To foster the development of a clearer appreciation of the possibilities and capabilities of gifted children and to promote plans to further their interests.

To encourage public sentiment in favor of plans to recognize gifted children at an early stage and to promote their welfare as individuals of a distinctive class.

To publish writings, papers, books, pamphlets, periodicals and other publications for cultivating and fostering the purposes of the organization.

1951 -- The Gifted Child, a first book in the field, was published by D. C. Heath & Co. It was authored by members of the Association and edited by the Vice-President of AAGC, Dr. Paul Witty.

1958 -- Four Guideposts for the Education of the Gifted were published and delivered to State Directors of Special Education for parents, teachers, administrators, and gifted students. These publications, written by Dr. Ruth Strang, provided practical strategies for the development of gifted children.

1959 -- Creativity of Gifted and Talented Children was published, which included the speeches by Paul Witty, James B. Conant, and Ruth Strang delivered to The American Association of School Administrators' annual meeting. In addition, during the 1950's, AAGC's leaders were active in promoting information about gifted children through radio and television, conferences, and through a number of prestigious publications.

1964 – United States Presidential Scholars’ Program was established.

AAGC was awarded $1 million dollars annually from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation to manage the Scholars’ Program and to participate in activities with the Presidential Scholars Foundation during a week of activities in Washington, DC where selected scholars met with senators and legislators, attended a performance by Scholars in the ARTS at the Kennedy Center and received a gold medallion from the President of the United States.  Teachers were honored with an awards luncheon.

1975 – Mary Jane and Jerome A. Straka Scholarship established to provide a scholarship for a student to study math, science or economics in college.

October 7, 1975 – White House Meeting

November 8, 1978 - Educational Testing Service collaborated on a National Merit Awards Program in the Arts.

1979 – United States Presidential Scholars in the ARTS was established.

November 12, 1980 – Report of The Mary Jane and Jerome A. Straka Scholarship Committee

October 1981 – The 1964-1968 Presidential Scholars: A Follow-up Study, Felice A. Kaufmann, Exceptional Children Journal, October 1981.   Pgs.164-169.

September 1984 – Jerome and Mary Jane Straka Letters on the Scholarship awarded to AAGC.

February 15, 1985 – Meeting with the National Association for Gifted Children - Savannah

The meeting was held to discuss the merger of the two organizations.  Memorandum Report, April, 1985.

November 13-14, 1984 – Mental Health Task Force met in New York City.

November 1985 – Presidential Scholars’ Survey, Patricia Lund Casserly.  AAGC, 1985.  31 pps.

1986 – 1989 – Affiliated with SENG at Wright State University – Dayton, Ohio - Dr. James T. Webb, President

The American Association for Gifted Children moved to Wright State University School of Professional Psychology in Dayton, Ohio in 1986. The identified purposes in state corporate papers were: "AAGC's programs include research, offering grants, conducting seminars and workshops and publishing to stimulate and recognize efforts regarding gifted children. It works with the White House Office of Gifted and related associations in the field. Current efforts are in the areas of minority gifted and health care professionals, “to assist in nurturing the emotional and social development of gifted Black children.” A conference is held to focus on this group in 1987. The Association’s programs are designed to:

Assist families in identifying and nurturing gifted and talented families;

Engage others from the community to work on behalf of the gifted and talented;

Emphasize special populations, most notably, underachievers, minority gifted and handicapped gifted;

Support efforts of others to assure effective school programs; and

Promote in-service education for professionals in various fields.​

August 7-9, 1986 - Conference on “The Future is in Our Minds.” Stouffer Dayton Plaza Hotel, Dayton, Ohio. Themes: Motivation – Minority Gifted – Vocational Planning – Gifted Adults

1987 – Developing a Project for Minority Gifted Children

AAGC developed a Strategic Plan for A Project on Minority Gifted, primarily to focus on gifted Black Children and to develop programs that could be replicated for other minority children. “It is necessary to increase local programs encouraging and helping family and community leaders to meet the needs of gifted Black children, and for developing national awareness of local efforts on behalf of these children.”

1989 - Duke University, Durham, NC —Dr. Robert Sawyer, Director – TIP Affiliation

The American Association for Gifted Children incorporated in 1989 as a non-profit in North Carolina, without members or capital stock, and was located at Duke University, Durham, N. C. Identified purposes included:

To foster a better understanding of the needs and capabilities of gifted children, to encourage research in the field of education and nurturing of gifted children, to recognize, appreciate, and stimulate creative work among gifted children, and to accomplish and encourage other related work relating to gifted children.

To support, both directly and indirectly, the work and operations of public charities qualified under the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986 or the corresponding provisions of any future United States Internal Revenue Law.

1991 - Mary Jane and Jerome A. Straka Scholarship Fund assets were transferred to TIP from the New York Office. Selection criteria for the Fund were then reviewed and changed. The Straka Scholarship Fund now provides college scholarships to outstanding 4th year math and science students who attend the TIP Summer Residential Program.

1995 - Dr. Irving Alexander was installed as President of AAGC. Dr. Alexander's goals included: re-defining the mission, services and goals of AAGC and raising funds to make the organization independent, with a full time Executive Director.

1996 - Dr. Irving Alexander and Margaret Gayle organized a very successful panel discussion for the 1995 National Recognition Week; Presidential Scholars Program. AAGC, through a grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation awarded 141 scholarships to outstanding graduating seniors across the nation. AAGC was the 1995 winner of the Jimmy Carter Award for Outstanding Contribution by an Organization.  A Strategic Plan was developed by the Board, with the assistance of Margaret Gayle, Consultant.

1996 – Margaret Gayle was appointed Executive Director.  Margaret Gayle and Dr. Vicki Stocking, TIP published a report on Gifted Preschoolers.  A Preschool Brochure and Fact sheets were developed by Gayle and 90,000 were mailed out to all stakeholders in North Carolina, with the help of TIP interns.  Fact sheets were mailed, based on requests from the brochure.

AAGC’s mission and goals were aligned to support the focus on at risk populations.

January 1999 – AAGC transferred at the request of Stephen Pfeiffer, Director, TIP at Duke to the Center for Child and Family Policy, SSRI under Dr. Ken Dodge, Director and AAGC President, Dr. Irving Alexander.

June 16, 2000 – Planning Retreat – 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Red Mill Building, Duke University. Andy Smith, Chair of Planning Committee and Margaret Gayle, Facilitator.  Feedback on Major Issues from a variety of groups included: 1) lack of a program for gifted K-2 students; lack of support for precocious preschoolers; under-representation of minority students and children of poverty in advanced programs; and the number of students in alternative programs without service.  Other professionals cited the lack of research or evaluation of the impact of the Governor’s Schools or other programs that specifically target gifted and talented students.  A business plan was projected for years 2001-2003.

December 2001 – Geraldine R. Dodge Funds approved for Bright IDEA Pilot in collaboration with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction: Exceptional Children and Closing the Gap Divisions. Bright IDEA focused on the under-representation of children from Minority and Title 1 populations in gifted programs.

April 2001 – Submitted a Three-Year Strategic Business Plan to the AAGC Board.

2004-2010 - US Department of Education, through the Javits Education Program, funded Bright IDEA for $2.5 Million.  The fiscal agent was the Exceptional Children Division, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.Valorie Hargett and Mary Watson were Principal Investigators and Margaret Gayle was the Project Manager.Dr. Ron Tzur served as Outside Evaluator and Dr. Rachel Kenney served as the Research Assistant. A final report was submitted to the US Department of Education, September 2010.

2010-2012 – Dissemination of Project Bright IDEA to the Scale-Up Version- Bright Tomorrow - Continuation of Bright IDEA as Project Bright Tomorrow, K-5 in Title 1 schools in 5 school districts.

2011 – AAGC and The Research Network of Racial and Ethnic Inequality signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on similar missions.

August 7, 2011 – Board Retreat to revise Mission.  Developed a Strategic Framework with new Goals.

April 26-27, 2012 - Closing the Opportunity Gap Conference with The Research Network of Racial and Ethnic Inequality, SSRI and the Exceptional Children Division of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction – Duke Campus.

July 9-20, 2012 – Participated in Young Scholar Writing Camp with The Research Network of Racial and Ethnic Inequality, SSRI – Duke Campus. Gayle developed Microbiology lessons for the Middle School Scholars with Dr. Lola Reid as the lead scientist teaching the labs on cells and DNA. Danielle Groseclose, a Bright Tomorrow teacher serving as an Intern in the Research Network assisted with the lessons.

July 18, 2012 – Dr. Joy Lawson Davis, Institute on Gifted Minority Learners, with The Research Network of Racial and Ethnic Inequality, SSRI – Duke Campus. A Training Workshop for Educators during the day, and an Evening Dinner Presentation with Parents and Educators.

July 24, 2012 – Dr. Laura Bottomley, Workshop on North Carolina Engineering Standards for Educators, SSRI – Duke Campus.

June 2013 – Board Awarded 4 Scholarships ($500 each, Needs Based) to the North Carolina Governor’s School for high schools seniors and a scholarship for a TIP student in the summer program.

September 2013 – The Social Science Research Institute selected a Project Bright IDEA team to participate in the Education and Human Development theme within the Bass Connections initiative at Duke University.