As a member of Whitworth’s education faculty for nearly four decades, Margo Long taught and mentored generations of teachers, offered dozens of keynote addresses, and continues to be recognized as an expert on educating gifted and talented students. Long founded the Whitworth Center for Gifted Education & Professional Development in 1979 and served as its director until her retirement, in 2011.
Long’s idea for the center germinated after she spent a week at a conference in New Jersey and was eager to apply what she learned about facilitating education for the gifted. “Very little was being done here [in gifted education],” she said. “And the need was tremendous. School districts were trying to develop programs, and they didn’t know what to do.”
One year during a summer-school session for the gifted in Spokane, a young boy with a bone disease participated in a creative-writing workshop. When the student died a few months later, his parents and teachers said the workshop had been the most marvelous experience of his life. “Even if you do it for one child, one time, it matters,” Long said. “We can’t expect these students to teach themselves. They have the right to be challenged by our educational system.”
Long’s other career highlights include her membership on the State Advisory Board for Gifted & Talented and receiving the Courage Award from the Washington Association of Educators of Talented and Gifted. Upon Long’s retirement, James P. and Wanda Cowles, longtime Spokane community leaders and friends of the university, pledged $3 million to fund the Margo Long Endowed Chair in Gifted Education at Whitworth.
The endowment supports Whitworth’s commitment to preparing teachers who pursue a vocation in serving gifted and talented students and ensures the future success of the center, which is the only one of its kind in Washington state. Jann Leppien, Ph.D., an internationally known expert in the field of gifted education, was named the inaugural Margo Long Chair in 2013.