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Cowles announced as donors of $3 million endowed chair in gifted education at Whitworth

May 2, 2012
James P. and Wanda Cowles, longtime Spokane community leaders and friends of Whitworth, have been announced as the donors who last fall pledged $3 million to fund an endowed chair in gifted education at Whitworth. The gift, which was named in honor of Margo Long, a long-serving associate professor of education who founded Whitworth's Center for Gifted Education & Professional Development, will support Whitworth's commitment to preparing teachers who pursue a vocation in serving gifted and talented students and ensure the future success of the center, which is the only one of its kind in Washington state.

"We are so grateful for the generosity and vision of Jim and Wanda Cowles in simultaneously celebrating the university's rich history of academic excellence and helping us point to a promising future for our students and faculty through this extraordinary gift," says Whitworth President Beck A. Taylor. "Jim and Wanda wanted the focus to be placed on Margo Long's remarkable legacy and on her national reputation in gifted and talented education, but we asked that they grant us permission to make their generosity and initiative known to the public. The news was simply too good for us to keep secret, particularly given their long history with Whitworth."

James P. Cowles is chairman of Inland Empire Paper Co., a subsidiary of Spokane-based Cowles Co. Wanda Cowles worked as an elementary school teacher in California, and has been a leader in Washington state education, most recently serving with Margo Long on the State gifted advisory Committee for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The Cowles family's connection with Whitworth dates back to the early 1900s, when Jim Cowles' grandfather, William H. Cowles, who founded Cowles Publishing Co., worked with fellow Spokane businessman JP Graves to raise the necessary funds to relocate Whitworth to Spokane from Tacoma in 1914. Jim's father, William H. Cowles, Jr., served as a Whitworth trustee from 1960-71, and Wanda Cowles served as a trustee from 1988-95. Several buildings on campus are named after the Cowles family in honor of their long-standing support of the university, including Cowles Auditorium and the Harriet Cheney Cowles Memorial Library.

Whitworth established the Center for Gifted Education & Professional Development in 1979, in response to the growing need for leadership on the east side of Washington state to facilitate the distribution of materials and to provide services for the exceptionally able learner. Since state money was available at that time, public schools, particularly in rural districts, were eager to plan categorical programs and implement curriculum. These districts felt that their situations differed greatly from the large metropolitan districts west of the Cascades. Consequently, the Center for Gifted Education and Professional Development at Whitworth University was established to offer graduate courses and to provide in-service, consultant aid and other practical resources.

Whitworth's center supports and develops policies and practices that encourage and respond to the diverse expressions of gifts and talents in children and youth from all cultures, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and socioeconomic groups. To this end, the center supports and engages in research and development, staff development, advocacy, and communication and collaboration with other organizations and agencies that strive to improve the quality of education for all students.

In addition, the center's extensive library of current and classic gifted materials, including periodicals and major texts in the field, is a valuable resource for teachers in the areas of curriculum planning, classroom management, learning styles realization, and lesson planning for gifted children in all types of programs.

Margo Long served as director of the center from its inception until her retirement last spring. In addition to her work at Whitworth, Long helped propose the Washington state specialty endorsement for teaching the gifted and served on the committee of the OSPI that examined meeting the needs of underrepresented K-12 gifted and talented students. She also received the Courage Award from the Washington Association of Educators of Talented & Gifted.

The Margo Long Endowed Chair in Gifted Education will allow Whitworth to hire a national leader in this important field, thereby assuring Whitworth's national prominence as a center of excellence in gifted education.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Scott McQuilkin, vice president for institutional advancement, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4368 or

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or