First Visit and Interview
My first visit to Koç University took place on 7 January, 1994, toward the end of the very first semester, when I came to meet Prof. Dr. Attila Aşkar for my interview. Prof. Aşkar was the founding Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, which, at the time, comprised six departments: Chemistry, History, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology, and Sociology. Later in 2009, the college would be split into two separate colleges, College of Sciences and College of Social Sciences and Humanities. At the time of my visit, Koç University was located in the İstinye Campus, where the old Türkay match factory was restored to house the only two colleges of the university (College of Arts and Sciences and College of Administrative Sciences and Economics), the Graduate School of Business, and the English Language Center. In those days, the main access to İstinye Campus was via Çayır Caddesi, the narrow winding side road still running through İstinye. The main road now extending from İstinye Park junction down to the waterfront via Otokoç did not exist at the time.
Koç university had been established just a few months ago in October 1993. Upon entering the campus for the first time, I was very impressed by the warm architecture of the academic building, in which faculty offices were located on the L-shaped upper floor of a steel construction embedded within the high-ceiling factory. On the ground floor were the library, lecture rooms, two auditoriums (the blue and the beige auditorium), and a handful of laboratories. The walls were decorated with contemporary artwork and pictures of the old Türkay match factory. Some of the artwork and factory pictures can still be seen today in the Science Building at Rumelifeneri Campus. For several years, the upper floor could accommodate all of the faculty members of the two Colleges as well as the lecturers of the English Language Center.
Prior to my visit, I had sent my application for faculty position in November 1993 and had been in correspondence with Attila Bey. Most of the fast communication channels which are now part of our lives were still scarce in those days, including email and the World Wide Web. I remember sending my application by regular mail and receiving an invitation by fax for the January interview. During my interview, I was greatly inspired by the philosophy of the university and the firm position that both Dean Aşkar and President Tiniç held toward establishing a university strong in both liberal arts education and high-quality research. I also felt very excited about getting involved in the establishment of a new department. Attila Bey told me that on the experimental side, the university planned on hiring experimentalists in the areas of nonlinear optics and polymer science. I gladly accepted the offer to start in Fall 1994 as the first faculty member of the Physics Department. In the same semester, İskender Yılgör joined the College as the first faculty member of the Chemistry Department.
Reflections from Fall 1994 and Spring 1995 Semesters:
Two experimentalists started in the College of Arts and Sciences in Fall 1994: myself in Physics and İskender Yılgör in Chemistry. In my first semester, I taught three sections (two sections of Science 101 with a total of 160 students and one section of Physics 201-Classical Mechanics). In addition, I was involved in setting up the Laser Research Laboratory and the teaching laboratory for Experimental Physics. Since the university was very new, we did not yet have a separate purchasing department. Ms. Ferda Yaman, Attila Bey’s administrative assistant, would handle all of the purchasing as well as customs processing of the imported equipment for both Physics and Chemistry, in addition to her regular office duties.
The 1995 new year’s dinner was held on 25 December 1994 in the cafeteria of the İstinye Campus. The cafeteria was at the location of the current car park of the İstinye Campus. Vehbi Bey attended the dinner and sat at a large round table together with new faculty members from different departments. The participants greatly enjoyed the concert by Candan Erçetin, who at the time was a music teacher at Galatasaray Highschool.
Sunday Volleyball Games: One clearly saw the enthusiasm, commitment, and closeness of the founding faculty members of Koç University. Faculty members from different departments would have offices side by side on the upper floor, eat lunch together, and were inseparable even over the weekends. It became traditional to have volleyball games on Sunday mornings, followed by brunch in Emek Café in Yeniköy. In those days, Emek Cafe only served tea/coffee and did have a food menu. We would buy pastries from the “Tarihi Yeniköy Börekçisi” and spend the Sunday afternoon chatting and enjoying tea in Emek Cafe.
1995 Vehbi Koç Scholar ceremony: During the Spring 1995 semester, those students who had scored a grade point average above 3.5 in the Fall 1994 semester were recognized as Vehbi Koç Scholars. Vehbi Bey attended this ceremony and personally delivered the certificate of each student.
The First Graduation Ceremony of Koç University: The first graduation ceremony was held on 28 June 1995, in the Şark Sigorta Building in Altunizade to recognize the graduating MBA and EMBA students. The first graduation ceremony involving undergraduates was not until 1997.