Highlights from President Nihat Berker's commencement speech

Sabancı University President Professor A. Nihat Berker said he was confident that Sabancı University alumni would never have severe failures or hindrances in their journeys through life.

Professor Berker said, “Achievements of the present and the future are thanks to you above and beyond all.  It is thanks to your self-confidence, eagerness to tackle life, and your diverse yet freely-formed skills.  This is why you should thank yourselves before anyone.  Immediately afterwards, you should thank your parents and loved ones for bringing you up, missing you, and bearing with days and months of your absence.  They are now extremely proud of you, and we are thankful to them."

Professor Berker said “As Sabancı University faculty and employees, we served you to find your inner fire and happiness" and continued that the freedom of choice, human-focused mode of operation, constant questioning and striving for the better at Sabancı University was an example for Turkey, and event whole continents. Professor A. Nihat Berker said that the main purpose of a university is to serve it students, continuing "Of course, it must do this in the best way possible.  If there are no students, there is no university; if the students don't matter to a university, the university doesn't matter either."

Professor A. Nihat Berker went on, “As faculty and employees of Sabancı University, we have the opportunity to get to know you, exercise our minds, share your excitement and success, which give us all youth and enthusiasm.  This is a blessing that is not found in many other professions, and we are thankful for that. Your excitement makes Sabancı University a better school in all respects:  Just the latest examples include Times Higher Education’s "100 Under 50" rankings based on meticulous analysis and strict criteria.  We have been ranked 13th worldwide and 1st in Turkey.  The average age of the top 20 universities is 40.2, and at 16 years of age, we are the youngest of the top 20.  We are also 21st among all universities in Asia, regardless of age. We are 15th among universities in 22 emerging economies including the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa).  On the national scale, we were first once and second twice on the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Index compiled by the Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology for three years.  I am sure that we will improve on these results in the years to come."

Professor Berker said that they were proud of other Turkish universities achieving high positions on international rankings, continuing "We will continue to be in effective and widespread collaboration with our great competitors. We are happy to be the university that grants the most assistance to other universities in Turkey.  We view Turkey as a vast campus, and are aware that our students are in fact our children."

Professor Nihat Berker mentioned the national and international, personal and collective achievements of Sabancı University students, alumni, faculty and employees in labs, artistic endeavors, books written, workplaces, sports fields, and across difficult geographical locations. He said that his happiest moments were sitting at a random table in the cafeteria during lunch, teaching physics to 300 students of the IF200 class, and the spontaneous laughter that erupted during commencement rehearsals. 

Professor Nihat Berker gave some advice to new graduates: "Life may be difficult at times, but it is a breathtaking adventure.  We all live once and there are no practice laps.  Your most important duty is to yourself.  This means making yourself happy and being successful in the way your heart wants, sometimes by changing direction.  A happy person becomes successful, and a successful person becomes happy.  A happy and successful person will benefit their surroundings.  The most important mission of the society is to provide an environment for the individual to be happy and successful, and guarantee rewards for skill and hard work.

Never fall in the trap of negativity and excuses.  We had a teacher in high school who always complained about the way the country was in, and said he would have been a great teacher if the country wasn't in such a bad way, and we hated him.  We all know the greatest counter-example.  That great man who influenced all our lives never said: "My country is occupied, my strongholds are occupied and my armies dispersed; what can I do?"  Instead, he rolled up his sleeves, used his power and wisdom, took risks, trusted the youth and the future, and won on behalf of all of us.  This is a great example for all of us, all of the time.  Don't run from problems - meet them head on, be positive and hopeful, never surrender, and be strong, assertive and resilient.  In the end, you will always win."

Professor Berker concluded by saying that the graduates were beginning a new phase of their lives: "Yet, even when you are at the sprightly young age of 60, never forget to regard life with the eyes of a child. Live with joy, excitement and curiosity."