April 3 is the birthday of Bilkent University’s founder, Prof. İhsan Doğramacı. Each year, the university community celebrates the occasion as Bilkent Day, with events including a luncheon, the annual Bilkent Day Conference and a commemorative concert. The year 2017 marked the 102nd anniversary of Prof. Doğramacı’s birth.
As has become customary, this year’s celebration began with the luncheon on Monday, April 3. The School of Applied Technology and Management hosted the event at its practice restaurant, Le Piment Rouge, where students of the Department of Tourism and Hotel Management prepared and served the meal under the supervision of Chefs Barış Ak, Bülent Karaoğlu, Sadık Can Gazelci and Service Instructor Ali Ünal.
Among the guests were members of the Doğramacı family and the university administration. A special feature of this year’s luncheon was an appearance by BLIS Middle School students, who read a poem dedicated to Prof. Doğramacı, receiving warm applause from the guests. In addition, tenor and Bilkent graduate Ömer Türkmenoğlu performed a song, which he had composed on lyrics consisting of a poem written by Hocabey.
The celebration then continued in the afternoon with the 2017 Bilkent Day Conference, held in the Bilkent Concert Hall. The program opened with Prof. Ali Doğramacı, president of the Bilkent University Board of Trustees, presenting a token of appreciation to Prof. Ergün Toğrol, who had long served as the Board’s vice chair before leaving his position earlier this year. In his statement of thanks and farewell, Prof. Toğrol said, “My association with Bilkent University has constituted one of the most important periods in my life. I will watch Bilkent’s future success with pleasure, and my heart will always be with you.”
Next on the program came a presentation by Bilkent’s rector, Prof. Abdullah Atalar, on “The State of the University.” In his presentation, Rector Atalar highlighted the university’s most recent academic, educational and research accomplishments. The information he shared included statistical and other data concerning the student body, university alumni, faculty members, research at Bilkent, the library, the university’s digital media statistics, university budget items and Bilkent’s place in various world university rankings. He also spoke briefly about future investments and plans.
The remaining portion of the conference consisted of talks by two speakers. The first of these was given by Prof. Tayfun Özçelik, dean of the Faculty of Science. Prof. Özçelik began his talk, titled “My Mentor İhsan Doğramacı,” by highlighting three life-changing lessons he had learned from Prof. Doğramacı: “be a man of purpose”; “perceive your disadvantage as your advantage and act accordingly”; and “always move forward and work hard to achieve excellence.” He then proceeded to give examples of events in his life that had shown him the wisdom of Prof. Doğramacı’s teachings, and the way in which he had advanced in his career path by following them.
Following Prof. Özçelik’s remarks, Prof. İlker Baybars, member of the Board of Trustees and dean of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, took the podium. In his talk, Prof. Baybars shared his personal memories of Prof. Doğramacı, including the story of how the two first met.
He also discussed at length the foundation of Bilkent University, and its role as a prototype for aspiring new institutions of higher learning. “During the last 50 years, many universities have been established around the world, most of them with the aim of being another Harvard one day. Abroad, when I am asked for my opinion by individuals or groups involved in establishing a new university, I always give the same answer: look to the Bilkent University model.
“To establish a good university, you must first adopt a course of action, and develop a plan for reaching your goals. For Hocabey, obstacles were merely things you had to get over. The most important thing is to attract good students; then comes having good teachers, a good team, good facilities and sufficient funding.”
Summing up Prof. Doğramacı’s achievements as a founder of new educational institutions, Prof. Baybars declared Bilkent University, along with the Hacettepe University Faculty of Medicine, to be “two miracles, and the finest examples of Hocabey’s talent.”
The final event of this year’s Bilkent Day took place in the evening, with a special concert by the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Gürer Aykal, with piano soloist Gülsin Onay. The performance took place in the Bilkent Concert Hall, with a program consisting of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, Tarcan’s Orchestra Suite No. 3 and Borodin’s Symphony No. 3.