2021 Commencement Ceremony was held on our campus

Sabancı University’s 19th undergraduate and 22nd graduate classes’ commencement ceremony was held physically on the campus in Tuzla. Realized with the participation of Güler Sabancı, the Founding Chair of the Board of Trustees of Sabancı University and Sabancı University President Yusuf Leblebici, the 2021 commencement ceremony included Professor Uğur Şahin and Doctor Özlem Türeci, founders of the BioNTech company, as guests of honor. 

Sabancı University’s 19th undergraduate and 22nd graduate classes’ commencement ceremony was held physically on the university’s campus. During the ceremony, the top-ranking students deserving of a special award were announced. These awards are fully funded annually by the Sakip Sabancı Fund set up in the will of Sakıp Sabancı. The top-ranking students in the Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and the Sabancı Business School were Deniz Şahin, Selin Alara Dalgıç, and Orkan Mamado, respectively. Şevval Özkaymak delivered a speech on behalf of undergraduate students, and Alara Buyuran delivered her speech on behalf of graduate students. 

During the ceremony, upon the invitation of Güler Sabancı, a big round of applause was given to Professor Uğur Şahin and Doctor Özlem Türeci for their work for humanity, and to healthcare professionals for their services to people during the pandemic.

Realized with the participation of Güler Sabancı, the Founding Chair of the Board of Trustees of Sabancı University and Sabancı University President Yusuf Leblebici, the 2021 commencement ceremony had Professor Uğur Şahin and Doctor Özlem Türeci, founders of the BioNTech company, as guests of honor. They joined the ceremony by videoconference and told young people that the pandemic showed the whole world how science and research made a difference for humanity. 

Güler Sabancı, the Founding Chair of the Board of Trustees of Sabancı University stated that, unlike some other universities, Sabancı University held the 20201 Commencement Ceremony physically on the campus, considering the acceleration of normalization and vaccination processes and taking all the necessary measures. Telling the alumni they would be ready for the post-pandemic world thanks to the education they received from Sabancı University, Güler Sabancı continued, “I am fully confident that you will overcome these challenging conditions. You will be the leaders who provide solutions to new problems of the new world and contribute to society.” Referring to Rumi’s famous quote “every thorn that pricks your feet heralds the rose that you are searching for”, Güler Sabancı emphasized that it was again young people that would make this world a better place.  

Expressing the idea that people faced a totally different world due to the pandemic, Güler Sabancı said the following: “It takes versatile and fluent leadership to succeed in this period when everything is revisited, the roles of all institutions and organizations are redefined, change cycles are accelerated, and strategic perspectives require agility. To overcome challenges, the ability to find quick and rational solutions, in other words, skillfulness and emotional resilience become more important. It is important to become individuals that adapt to change, embrace change, and produce solutions instead of complaining. Remember that ability to adapt to change is an indicator of intelligence”. 

Güler Sabancı

Pointing out that Sabancı University always aimed to be ahead of its time, Güler Sabancı noted that they set out to establish a world university and raise world citizens, and went on to say the following: “Today, you have all the competencies to become successful ‘world citizens’! During your academic life, you have received education from the strongest academic staff in Turkey under the best conditions. As universal values point to and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk has said, you grew up as world citizens with free thought, free understanding and free conscience. You will build the rest of your lives on these foundations through your knowledge and your choices. We will be most proud of you when you become individuals who benefit their country, community and humanity.” 


In his speech at the 2021 Commencement Ceremony, Sabancı University President Yusuf Leblebici highlighted the fact that Sabancı University was one of the best universities in the country in terms of both the quality and originality of education programs, and of research outputs, which represent the University’s contributions to the world of science, and said, “we have always been guided by the light of reason and science”. 

Yusuf Leblebici

Underlining that their objective was to become a well-known and appreciated university not only in Turkey but also all around the world, Yusuf Leblebici pointed out that Sabancı University ranked among the top three universities in Turkey in terms of project contribution to ongoing research studies. Specifying that they uninterruptedly took steps to further enrich education and research infrastructure during the pandemic, Leblebici said that the main campus, equipped with modern distance learning infrastructure, had been made ready for hybrid education in the real sense of the word for the next academic year, and that the university was ready to welcome all the students back to the campus. 


Professor Uğur Şahin and Doctor Özlem Türeci, founders of the BioNTech company, gave lifelong inspiring messages to the alumni as guests of honor of the Sabancı University 2021 Commencement Ceremony. 

Uğur Şahin ve Özlem Türeci

Emphasizing that the pandemic showed the whole world how science and research could make a difference, Professor Uğur Şahin said that, as scientists, they managed to make a difference thanks to their education and more than ten years of research in collaboration with their colleagues, experts and trusted fellows. Congratulating Sabancı University alumni on their graduation, Şahin said, “What you have achieved today will have an impact on your future. Always keep this day in mind because this day is very special for three reasons.” Şahin continued, “First, today is your celebration day. A day you celebrate all the hard work and curiosity that got you to this moment. Stay curious. Stand up for the things you care about. By doing so, you will go far and won’t get tired of what you are doing. Keep exploring new destinations even if you don’t know where this will lead you. What I love most about my work is that every day I can learn from scientific papers, news, data, my wife, my colleagues and even from strangers. Stay open-minded. 

“Second, today is a day of gratitude. A day to thank those who have helped you to get there. The people who believed in you, supported you, taught you, cheered you on and dried your tears. Stay close to people who are as motivated as you. Together you will contribute to bigger achievements. Together you can make a difference.

“Third, today is also a day of reflection. Today marks the end of one era of your life and, at the same time, it is the beginning of a new era. It is the perfect time to ask yourself, “What is important to me? How can I contribute to society by fulfilling my duty?” To me, contributing to a certain purpose is what fills me with joy and gratitude. Dedicating my work to improving the lives of many. I am very grateful that we have been able to contribute to the fight against the pandemic and help so many people with our research and work. Today is your work. Be ready to start a new chapter for you, for your families and for future generations. First and foremost, make a difference and try to be useful. Many little things can lead to something big. Be humble, be curious, be faithful. I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin a new chapter in your life, I wish that for you.” 


Uğur Şahin shared his views about his work and the evolution of the vaccination process. 

Highlighting that their research focus was to develop medicines for cancer patients and, specifically, to develop medicines to help individual patients, Şahin said, “What turned out is that the technology that we have developed is not only able to develop medicines for individual cancer patients, but the same medicine can be used to develop a vaccine which is useful for mankind.” He continued, “The scale does not play a big role. I feel happy if I can help a single individual, as happy as I am that our vaccine has helped humanity to go back to our normal lives.” Şahin shared his views of the vaccination and normalization process. 


“I am very confident that we will go back to our normal lives. So, what we are seeing is that vaccination helps to get a control of this pandemic. It is important, of course, that everyone is getting vaccinated. That will most likely happen in Turkey in the next 3-4 months, allowing us really to get not only the infections under control but also reduce hospitalization and continue with our normal life. It is important to consider the lessons from this pandemic that science and collaboration could make such a big difference. Therefore, we should have an optimistic view of the future  and invest in science, invest in education, invest in research, and stay open to collaborations.” 

You can watch Prof Şahin's speech in full from the link below. 


Pointing out that she was honored to address the alumni at the commencement ceremony of Sabancı University, which she named as one of the finest universities in the world, Dr Özlem Türeci said, “The skills you have developed over the past years will guide you in the future. They will support you in having an impact on science and society. And, you are in good company. Many alumni from this university including Canan Dağdeviren have made a difference for society.” 

Stating that, on their personal journey, she and Uğur Şahin had to make many decisions without knowing the consequences or the outcome in advance, Türeci said they were guided by three virtues, namely: courage, humility and perseverance. 

Advising Sabancı University alumni to act with courage and humility in all that they did, Türeci said they should not be afraid to fail. She continued, “Continued effort is the key to unlocking your potential, your own superpowers. Failing twenty times and succeeding the twenty-first time. Yes, that is a recurring theme in Uğur’s and my life. Early in my career, I realized that if I wanted to accomplish something greater, I had to deal with both success and failure. Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. If you are not failing, you are not growing.”

In her messages to Sabancı University alumni based on her own life experiences, Özlem Türeci said that the easiest, straightforward path was not always the right one and might not necessarily bring them closer to their goal; having the courage to take a left or right on the path might be the route to their actual destination. Stating that it was the path that served their goal, Türeci said, “our goal was to turn science into survival and into a better life for humanity.” 

You can watch Dr Özlem Türeci’s speech in full from the link below. 

You can watch our 2021 Commencement Ceremony from the link below. 

Release date: 13.07.2021 15:12:32