New Chair and Center for Turkish Studies Created at Columbia

June 14, 2016

From left, David Madigan, executive vice president of Arts and Sciences and dean of the faculty; Alondra Nelson, dean of social science; Güler Sabancı; Lee C. Bollinger, president of the University. 

Columbia University has created the Sakıp Sabancı Chair and Center for Turkish Studies, the first such center in the United States. Established with a $10 million gift and named for its benefactor, a Turkish businessman and philanthropist, the goal of the center and the professorship is to increase knowledge and awareness about Turkey.

The gift will also support research and academic collaboration at Sabancı University in Istanbul, which was founded by Sakıp Sabancı in 1995. At Columbia it will provide funding for visiting scholars and graduate fellowships. Researchers at both universities will investigate pressing contemporary issues concerning Turkey to produce ideas and knowledge that could have an impact both within and outside academia.

“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.”

Sakıp Sabancı, who died in 2004, was the president of the board of Sabancı Holding, one of the largest family-owned companies in Turkey. The son of a cotton trader and textile factory owner, he took over the family business in 1967, and with his five brothers built it into a conglomerate with more than 30,000 employees. “As his family, we share his enthusiasm for our country and strive to do good things for Turkish society,” said his daughter, Dr. h.c. Dilek Sabancı.

More than 140 students from Turkey currently attend Columbia—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.

“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.”