“They were encouraged to try their wings … and they flew.”
The Program for the Exceptionally Gifted began at Mary Baldwin College in 1985 with a grant of more than $1 million from the Jessie Ball DuPont Educational, Religious, and Charitable Foundation. Now well established and with an additional $2.2 million in support from the Malone Family Foundation for endowed scholarships, PEG is respected for enabling extraordinary young women to reach their potential both academically and personally.
More than 25 years later, PEG was, and still is, the only college in the country with a full-time residential program for gifted females as young as 13. The first 11 students came to PEG when it was merely an idea. Their experiences, along with those of the classes that followed them, helped PEG administrators create and develop an internationally acclaimed program drawing students from all 50 states as well as foreign countries.
It is difficult to imagine that the young women — barely high school age — who inaugurated Mary Baldwin College’s Program for the Exceptionally Gifted (PEG) are now approaching the age of 40. They and their families blazed a trail for the more than 650 who have followed since August 1985.
I was first introduced to PEG while earning my master’s degree in secondary gifted curriculum and instruction at Southeastern Louisiana University in 1996. The topic of the evening’s class was the spectrum of programming options for gifted students. PEG was mentioned as an example of a specialized school utilizing radical acceleration to meet the cognitive needs of gifted girls while addressing the affective domain within a unique residential community. I remember finding the concept of such a program intriguing and wistfully wishing such a program had existed when I was in junior high school. Later that academic year, I was reminded of PEG’s existence again after one of my gifted seventh grade students received information about the program after participating in Duke University’s Talent Identification Program. A decade, a doctoral degree, and three university teaching positions later, I found myself visiting Mary Baldwin and PEG during my interview for the position of PEG Director.
While reading the initial submissions to the 25 Faces of PEG Project, I was struck by the common threads woven through many of the vignettes. Taking the risk of skipping all or part of high school resulted in finding intellectual peers, lifelong friends, and self-understanding. Accelerating the pace of education provided extra time to allow for exploration and experience. The relationships formed through PEG at MBC are a well-spring of support available whenever a situation or circumstance requires it. Wherever they have gone, whatever they have pursued, these extraordinary young women have continued to seek out personal challenges, which promote their growth and make a difference in the lives of others.
These are the threads I am keen to unravel as I speak with prospective PEGs and their families. I am certain that PEG has carved a niche in world of education for high ability students. I know that as the program continues to service this population, the experiences described through the stories of PEG alumnae will continue to write the program’s history. Once a PEG, always a PEG … because your story is our story.
Stephanie K. Ferguson, Ph.D.
Former Director, Program for the Exceptionally Gifted