Sakıp Sabancı Chair and Center for Turkish Studies Created at Columbia University

June 13, 2016 — Funding to Support New Era of Scholarship about Turkey

Thanks to a generous gift from the family of the late Sakıp Sabancı, Columbia University has created the Sakıp Sabancı Chair and Center for Turkish Studies. The first center for Turkish Studies in the United States named for its benefactor, the Sakıp Sabancı Center will forge a new era of scholarly collaborations between Sabancı University and Columbia University and also the two countries. The Center’s goal is to increase knowledge and awareness about Turkey, as well as its importance to modern regional affairs, global affairs, and its historical significance.

Building on a long tradition of Turkish Studies at Columbia, the new Center will enrich the scope of its intellectual exploration about the country, its people, and the region. While pursuing objective scholarly work, University researchers will investigate pressing contemporary issues concerning Turkey to produce ideas and knowledge that could make an impact both within and outside academia.

Totaling $10 million, the gift also establishes the Sakıp Sabancı Chair in Turkish Studies. It will also support research and academic collaboration both at Sabancı University and Columbia University. In addition, the gift will provide funding for visiting scholars and graduate fellowships.

“Our University community feels a very deep connection with Turkey, with its history, and with its importance in the modern world,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. “The Sakıp Sabancı Center for Turkish Studies will be a leading center of teaching, scholarship, research, and service in this field, one that will investigate contemporary issues in a global context. We are honored by the partnership of the Sabancı family in this endeavor, deeply appreciative of their exceptional gift, and we are looking forward to all that will be accomplished as a result.”

“My late father Sakıp Sabancı, also the Honorary Chairman of the Sabancı University Board of Trustees, was not simply a businessman, but philanthropist at heart,” explained Dr. h.c. Dilek Sabancı. “He sought to do good for our country and our people all through his life. His hard work was not limited to the local or national level; he worked hard globally to promote Turkey. As his family, we share his enthusiasm for our country and strive to do good things for the Turkish society, giving it our best. My late father always used to say, ‘Try to be the best in whatever you do, and work with the people who know it the best.’ We are proud and delighted with the establishment of the Columbia University Sakıp Sabancı Chair and Sakıp Sabancı Center for Turkish Studies.”

Research and scholarship about Turkey became an important component of the University’s intellectual life beginning in the 1960s. In addition to instruction in modern Turkish, Columbia also offers courses in Ottoman Turkish, and in recent years has expanded its non-language course offerings, sponsoring courses on Turkish literature by visiting faculty. Currently more than 140 students from Turkey attend the University—one of the highest populations of Turkish students in the United States—and the Columbia community includes many faculty and students engaged in regional studies. In 2011, Istanbul joined the eight-city network of Columbia Global Centers.

The Dean of Sabancı University Faculty of Arts and Sciences Ayşe Kadıoğlu: Sakıp Sabancı Chair and Sakıp Sabancı Center will play a key role in the field of Turkish Studies by contributing to the production of academic knowledge about Turkish society economy and politics as well as Turkey’s international relations.

“For historic and geographic reasons, Turkey plays a pivotal role in many global issues,” said David Madigan, executive vice president for Arts and Sciences and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “I am therefore very grateful that we can build on Columbia's long-standing links with Turkey to propel Columbia to a leading position in Turkish Studies.”

Broad in its scope, the Center will re-think the history, politics, society, and economics of Turkey through a trans-regional perspective, including topics such as contemporary Turkey, the Ottoman Empire, history, archaeology, culture, sociology, political science, economics, diplomacy, and art history.