The primary aim of ECHA is to act as a European network for understanding high ability throughout the lifespan. From its establishment on 19th May 1987, during the years of my Founding Presidency, it soared from an idea to become a dynamic multinational association. The initiating team (including Pieter Span, Harald Wagner and Ulrike Stedtnitz) reached out particularly to professionals behind the (then) ‘iron curtain’. High standards were crucial, which is probably why the demand for international membership obliged us to remove European geographical boundaries. We published a quarterly newsletter and (with great difficulty) a scientific peer-reviewed journal. Not only did we present biennial conferences, but several times a year across Europe we set up ECHA symposia at other conferences, as well as independent ECHA workshops, e.g. maths, music, adolescence, thinking.
It was an honor for me, after having served five years as editorial assistant, to take over the position of editor-in-chief of High Ability Studies in 2007. The large number of submissions that High Ability Studies regularly receives and the journal’s extensive pool of reviewers testify to the exceptional work of my predecessor.
As the new Editor-in-Chief of the High Ability Studies in 2002, I had been often asked whether I intended to develop new emphases. Actually there is a fine line between preserving the tried and true and cautious adaptions of new developments. Therefore, I thought that the proven course chosen by my predecessor was generally to be continued. Indeed, Roland Persson had done a tremendous job. Most noteworthy is that he had registered the journal with all the major literature databases. Thus, I could focus on changes with regard to contents.
I succeeded Founding President Joan Freeman as Editor-in-Chief of the ECHA scholarly journal High Ability Studies in 1999 and stayed on, according to contract, until 2003. I was encouraged by the publisher (Carfax, at Oxford, at the time, which was later incorporated into Taylor & Francis Publishers) to make my own personal impact on the journal. I shared much of Joan's philosophy, namely to go looking for needed knowledge not apparently evident to main stream research, as pursued by scientists not necessarily known to everyone in the field of giftedness and talent. I still feel that this is something that should be pursued with an even greater fervour. Nothing good will ever come out of stagnant dogma and academic inbreeding. I did, however, decide to make an effort to include expertise research into the journal, a growing field of science which at the time did not really have a specific journal of its own. This direction was picked up and continued also by my successors: Albert Ziegler as well as Heidrun Stöger.
The first ECHA scientific publication, the European Journal of High Ability, was published in Sofia in 1990. It was extremely difficult manoeuvring currency through Bonn, Utrecht Hamburg, Vienna and Sofia, and then getting the copies out to the West. The priority was a high academic standard, including work from behind the Iron Curtain. When I became Editor in Chief (1996-1999), I renamed it High Ability Studies because our readership was well beyond Europe. I chose its new publisher, Carfax (now Taylor and Francis) in Oxford, UK, and redesigned the cover, still in print. There were literary-style book reviews in every twice-yearly issue.
I was the founding editor of the European Journal for High Ability, which subsequently became High Ability Studies, serving from 1989 to 1997. During this term of office I placed particular emphasis on stabilizing the existence of the newborn journal (regular appearance on time), on publishing papers going beyond a conceptualization of high ability as high academic ability to include sporting ability, musical ability, artistic ability and the like, and on inclusion of contributions from the (at that time) newly emerging countries of the former Soviet Union. During this period I was very grateful for the support of the ECHA Board and the scholars who contributed their work to the journal, thus ensuring its survival.
I joined ECHA in 1991 and was privileged to be elected to the General Committee in 1994 when the conference was in Nijmegen - my fondest memory of that conference was racing Francoys Gagne to the Dessert Table at the Conference Dinner - he won! In 1998 I joined the Executive. I was then re-elected in 2004 and took on the role of Secretary until September 2012. I had many happy times during my close involvement with ECHA - the music at the Vienna Conference, the organisation of the Oxford Conference, the heat in Debrecen, moving the venue of the 2002 Conference to Rhodes. Vineyards in the dark in Pamplona, The stunning venue of the conference dinner in Lahti and the elegance of Prague. More hot weather in Paris and the great numbers in Munster.
During 14 years I had the privilege to serve as ECHA Secretary and Treasurer, succeeding Pieter Span in this office. My assistant Menna Jones took meticulously care of the membership files and correspondence, what I gratefully acknowledge. The implementation of credit card payment of membership fees was a significant improvement for easy money transfer from a multitude of countries.
In 1983 Franz Mönks introduced me to 'the world of the gifted', which was the start of things to come. In august 1986 I participated in the first Portuguese conference on gifted education in Porto (Fig 1.). During the conference the president of the Portuguese association, Luiz Nazareth and I agreed on a proposal to found a European association. The objectives of this association should be the study and development of high ability, including the international exchange of information related to that subject. This should also include countries in east Europe, behind the iron curtain. I sent this proposal to European participants of recent conferences on giftedness and to local associations in European countries. Almost all the responses were positive. Only some respondents objected: they thought that Europe was not yet ready for such an association and at least there should be a link with the World Council. (The reader should remember that in those days there was a strong resistance against special attention for the gifted.)