7th International ECHA Conference, Debrecen, 19-22 Aug 2000

For the second time the ECHA conference was brought to Hungary: this time to the city of Debrecen. Debrecen is the second largest city of Hungary and is located in the east on the Alföld – the Great Hungarian Plain. Hosting was the distinguished University of Kossuth.

“Hungary has always been part of Europe and moreover it has served as the gate and defender of the continent for centuries. During the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy Hungary was a prosperous country and a centre of culture and science. After World War I it was dismembered and after World War II it was isolated from Europe. During this time our cultural, scientific and artistic life not only remained but developed. Now comes the time when the country can return to its one-time position. (…) So we feel honoured to have been offered the chance of organising the next ECHA conference in Debrecen.”
(Emese Vitális, Hungarian Conference Committee, ECHA News vol. 13 no. 1 April 1999)

The title of the conference was “Talent for the next Millennium” and it took place from 19-22 August 2000. The head of the organizing committee was Prof. Dr. László Balogh.

7th ECHA Conference Main Building of Kossuth Lajos University
Picture by Prof. Dr. László Balogh
Joyce VanTassel Baska
Dr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska

406 experts took part in the conference, for a large part from Hungary: approximately 250 people. The participants came from 26 European countries and five other countries: Australia, China, Indonesia, Jordania and USA. The hosting of the conference and the large Hungarian delegation had a positive impact on the ECHA memberships:

“The Debrecen conference, however, has brought 50 new Hungarian members to ECHA.”
(Minutes of the ECHA General Assembly, 20 August 2000)

Keynote speakers were Dr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska (USA), Prof. Dr. Miraca Gross (Australia) and Prof. Dr. György Hunyady (Hungary).

The program studied the problems of giftedness from a lot of new aspects. Beside the plenary sessions there were more than 26 workshops and thematic paper sessions, symposia and poster sessions. The conference was bilingual: in English there were 103 presentations and in Hungarian 61 presentations.

During this conference Javier Tourón was voted the next President of ECHA and took over from Franz J. Mönks. In his Presidential acceptance speech he set his goals for ECHA:

“The first one will be the development of a set of regulations for the ECHA diploma that will help to foster even further development that will benefit the community of teachers and practitioners as well as the ECHA itself. (…) I will finish using a sailing metaphor. Let’s imagine that the ECHA is a tall ship. You make me the helmsman for this period, but as a passionate sailor of many years I know very well that this ship will be unable to sail upwind without an enthusiastic and well trained crew. You are that crew and I rely totally on you. But we do not set sail from the yard; this is not a new tall ship. This is a veteran vessel that has coped very well in the past with calm waters and stormy ones too, thanks to the seamanship of other helmsmen. I will try to learn from the past and read the charts very carefully to avoid shallow waters.”
(Javier Tourón, Presidential acceptance speech)

It was in the middle of the summer and quite a few participants will remember the heat in those days:

“In the end I too had to quit the sun and go back to my room for a dribbling shower. On average, I reckoned that people took about 5 a day. I was waiting for the water to run out, but it didn’t.”
(Joan Freeman)

Despite the heat the participants took the time to explore the beautiful scenery in this part of Hungary. There were several museums in and around Debrecen. Impressive was the Flower Carnival with a parade and traditional Hungarian dancers.

Debrecen cover program book
Program book cover Debrecen
Debrecen 2000 picture page 1 ECHA news
Picture report in ECHA News vol. 14 no. 2 November 2000