Following Robert College (by the time I graduated the name of the high school had been changed to Robert Academy), I attended ODTU (Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi–Middle East Technical University). I was intrigued with this university, as it was new (founded in 1956) and like RC the language of instruction was English. Besides, it was in Ankara, the capitol of Turkey, where I had been only once when our RC theater group had performed “Darkness at Noon” at Ankara Maarif Koleji.
When I was applying for admission to universities (at that time each university had its own admission exam), my mother was urging me to be a diplomat (i.e., “go to the Political Science Faculty in Ankara–SBF). I was not sure what I wanted to study, but I was attracted with what was “trendy” at the time: to study business administration. (Parenthetically, engineering–more specifically civil engineering–was trendy in the 1950s, but not in the 1960s.) ODTU had a brand new program in business administration (patterned after US universities.)
I sat for the exams for ODTU and SBF and passed both (ranking quite high on the SBF, making me eligible for a government scholarship). But I chose ODTU–and not the engineering school to the amazement of the admission office staff–and began a new journey.
The Ankara of the 1960s was wonderful. It was more manageable than Istanbul. During my first year I lived at the ODTU dorm on Bulten Street. I practically walked to class as all our were held in the barracks behind the new parliament building when the ODTU campus was being constructed. At the barracks we had a single cafeteria for the entire university–thus everyone knew everybody else.
In administrative sciences we had a common program for all first year students. One of the compulsory courses was on “Boolean algebra” taught by no other than the future PM and President of the country–Turgut Ozal, who was at the time teaching at ODTU as a second job besides his post as an engineer at the Turkish Electricity Authority. Though I found Boolean algebra fun, keeping up with seven compulsory courses was not much fun.
By the time we started our second year, the new ODTU campus had begun to emerge and we were able to hold our classes at the new Architecture Building. By then I had moved out of the dorm at Bulten Sokak, to room with a dear friend from RC, the late Aydin Cubukcu. We rented an apartment on Kennedy Street (a few blocks from the US Embassy). The following year I rented a broom-closet size room (with a shower) that used to be the custodian’s quarter next to an apartment building. My final year at ODTU another dear friend from RC Omer Kural and I shared an apartment. The picture on the left shows Aydin, Omer and I having fun during a stop we made on a trip to Konya to attend the annual Mevlana (Rumi) Festival.
At ODTU we followed a common curriculum in our first year (with the same seven courses). We the chose one of three departments. Though my original intention had been to study business administration, I was more attracted to economics and statistics (perhaps because I had gotten A’s in both subjects) and chose the Economics and Statistics department. Professor Yorgi (Demir) Demirgil, the head of the department, had also encouraged me to lean in that direction. That is why my bachelors degree is in Economics and Statistics.
By the time I graduated from high school my parents had moved to Balikesir, where my father was posted as history teacher at the Teacher Training Institute (Eğitim Enstitüsü)–a three-year school for training middle-school teachers. Visiting home frequently, I made good friends there. A theater group staged a single act play I had translated from English. Also, I formed a small folk dancing group which performed whenever we could find an audience:)
Though I had a busy course load I wanted to work while going to school in order to lessen the financial burden on my parents. I had already taken a student loan. My experience in publishing a school paper came in handy to find work in two projects. The first was to edit and manage the printing of a English-Turkish Administrative Sciences Dictionary prepared by ODTU faculty and students. The second was a similar effort, Professor Demirgil’s Turkish translation of Paul Samuelson’s Economics. These led to a part-time job as research assistant at a research and consulting company (called ARDA) founded by the former leaders of the State Planning Organization who had developed the first five-year (1962-67) development plan for Turkey. I worked on an OECD-funded project entitled “Needs for Scientific Research and Technology in Relation to the Growth of the Turkish Economy.” I worked on this project through college at ARDA and as consultant at the OECD headquarters in Paris during the summer of my graduation. These were unique opportunities that enabled me to conduct hands on research on development issues I was studying in class.
During my senior year I began looking at scholarship opportunities for graduate study. My interest in statistics had grown as I took more classes. The fact that there were very few statisticians with doctoral degrees in Turkey was also influential in this decision. I applied for a Fulbright scholarship and close to graduation learned that I was awarded a grant and acceptance at Michigan State University in Michigan.
My mother and brother came to my graduation. I received an award for having attained the highest GPA in the Faculty of Administrative Sciences. Though I was happy to experience work in an international organization in Paris (my first trip outside the country), followed by a new educational opportunity in the USA, I was sad to leave my family and the many dear friends behind.