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Kocs Celebrate New Turkish Professorship

By Elizabeth S. Zuckerman, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies celebrated the establishment of a new chair in Turkish Studies on Friday night at a reception for Faculty, students and friends of Turkey.

Today Cemal Kafadar, professor of history, enters his new role as Koc Professor of Turkish studies. The Kocs--Turkey's most prominent business family--donated $1.75 million last February to endow the chair. The new post honors Vehbi Koc, founder of the dynasty.

Kafadar said he hopes the chair will lay a foundation for a stronger Turkish studies program by "provid[ing] continuity" and helping to "bring disparate activities together."

The event's organizer Nur O. Yalman, professor of social anthropology and Middle Eastern studies, said the chair represents the culmination of years of effort.

"Ottoman history has always been taught at Harvard in a manner of speaking," he said. "The chair means that the effort to bring [Turkish studies] under the curriculum has finally come to pass."

Turkish Ambassador Nusret Kandemir, who attended the reception, said the chair represents an important step toward improving U.S.-Turkish relations.

The professorship will help to "reveal the truth about Turkey," Kandemir said.

The ambassador's attendance at the event was not part of an official state visit though the Turkish government did make a contribution toward the chair four or five years ago, Kafadar said.

Also stressing cooperation between the two countries, Rahmi Koc, Vehbi Koc's son, spoke on behalf of the seven family members who had traveled to the U.S. for the celebration.

"We hope the chair will enable the American people to know Turkey better," he said.

Though organizers of the event feared protest of the Turkish ambas- sador's visit by Greek and Armenian students, the evening was peaceful.

Relations between the countries have been strained since the late nineteenth century and there is ongoing controversy over which group should bear responsibility for American deaths in the wake of the Ottoman empire's disintegration.

Noting the presence of Greek guests, speakers and attendees emphasized the desire for cooperation between the three nations.

"It's the progressive spirit of the academic environment of Harvard that promotes common historical soul-searching for the history of a land divided by Greeks, Turks and Armenians," said Mihalis Boutaris '98, who is from Greece.

Boutaris' family, which is in the wine-making business, donated the wine that was served at the reception.

Thanking Boutaris, Yalman said "when Greeks and Turks work together, the results are positive all around."

Faculty and friends also highlighted the Koc family's achievements.

The Kocs are "one of the most remarkable families in Turkey" and "really represent the entrepreneurial spirit in Turkey," Yalman said.

Now a Fortune 500 company, the Koc's business earned $14 billion last year, Rahmi Koc said. According to friends, Vehbi Koc built the empire from the ground.

"That's an extraordinary feat especially when achieved without robber baron methods," Yalman said.

The Koc family has also founded schools and universities in Turkey.

"The match between Koc and Harvard could not be a more perfect one," Kandemir said

Relations between the countries have been strained since the late nineteenth century and there is ongoing controversy over which group should bear responsibility for American deaths in the wake of the Ottoman empire's disintegration.

Noting the presence of Greek guests, speakers and attendees emphasized the desire for cooperation between the three nations.

"It's the progressive spirit of the academic environment of Harvard that promotes common historical soul-searching for the history of a land divided by Greeks, Turks and Armenians," said Mihalis Boutaris '98, who is from Greece.

Boutaris' family, which is in the wine-making business, donated the wine that was served at the reception.

Thanking Boutaris, Yalman said "when Greeks and Turks work together, the results are positive all around."

Faculty and friends also highlighted the Koc family's achievements.

The Kocs are "one of the most remarkable families in Turkey" and "really represent the entrepreneurial spirit in Turkey," Yalman said.

Now a Fortune 500 company, the Koc's business earned $14 billion last year, Rahmi Koc said. According to friends, Vehbi Koc built the empire from the ground.

"That's an extraordinary feat especially when achieved without robber baron methods," Yalman said.

The Koc family has also founded schools and universities in Turkey.

"The match between Koc and Harvard could not be a more perfect one," Kandemir said

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