Aptullah Kuran Anma Konferansı / 29 Mart 2016

Our distinguished guest, Dear colleagues, Dear Friends, Dear Students

It is my great pleasure and honor to welcome you all today to the Aptullah Kuran Memorial Lecture 2016. This lecture series began in 2005 as a tribute to Professor Aptullah Kuran, who passed away on April 1, 2002. The founding president of Boğaziçi University, and an architect and leading scholar of architectural history, his passing was a great loss for the Boğaziçi community. We are grateful to our History Department for making this series possible, for it was their proposal in April of 2004 that an Aptullah Kuran memorial lecture be delivered each spring by a scholar in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Accepted unanimously by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and by the Bogazici University Senate, the first Aptullah Kuran Memorial Lecture was delivered by Professor Carlo Ginzburg in 2005. Today Robert Darnton, Professor emeritus of Harvard University, where he was also the director of Harvard libraries, will deliver the twelfth Aptullah Kuran Memorial Lecture. 

It is now with great honor that I introduce Aptullah Kuran. Born in Izmir in 1927, Aptullah Kuran was educated at Robert College, and then at the Architecture School of Yale University, and at Ankara University. His academic career began with the foundation of the Middle East Technical University in 1957, where he also served as the Dean of the Faculty of Architecture. In 1968 Kuran accepted an invitation to become the Vice-President of Robert College, a job that came with the huge responsibility of effecting the school’s transfer from the Board of Trustees in New York to the Turkish government. In 1971, he would be appointed president of the newly founded university; five years later, its academic body elected him to the same post. 

During his tenure at Bogaziçi, Kuran also held visiting professorships in distinguished institutions including Princeton, Chicago and Pennsylvania Universities; he served as a member of the Turkish High Commission of Historic Buildings and Monuments, the Conservation Commission of Istanbul, and the Aga Khan Award juries. As chair of Boğaziçi University’s History Department from 1981 to his retirement in 1994, Aptullah Kuran played a leading role in the creation of a novel program embracing interdisciplinary perspectives and diverse approaches to the study of the past. Kuran published widely on aspects of architectural history from the medieval into the modern era, covering important ground in little explored topics. His books, The Mosque in Early Ottoman Architecture, Anadolu Medreseleri, and Mimar Sinan, the Grand Old Master of Ottoman Architecture remain important reference works. 

Kuran’s term marked the initial steps in the transition of a small liberal arts college focused on engineering and business administration into a large and diverse research university. This period also coincided with a time of rising political tension in Turkey that had significant and drastic consequences for universities. Today, at a time when the academic principles of this institution have to be protected and forcefully reasserted, we appreciate anew our founding president’s calm determination and resourcefulness in creating the conceptual and institutional framework for an environment of free thought, critical thinking and academic autonomy. 

We cherish his conviction that the university is first and foremost an assembly of colleagues; his insistence that the university must be administered by elected bodies; and his defense of academic, administrative, and financial autonomy as vital to the workings of the university. A multi-vocal body of colleagues, students and employees, and an uncomprimising embrace of pluralism were to him at the core of this institution’s academic identity.  Throughout his career as an academician and an administrator, Kuran remained a resolute advocate of academic freedom and pluralism as foundational to the workings of democracy. These values continue to lie at the heart and core of Boğazici University’s academic integrity. Today we remember Professor Kuran with great admiration and respect.