April 3rd is the birthday of Bilkent University’s founder, Prof. İhsan Doğramacı. Each year, the university community celebrates the occasion as Bilkent Day, with special events including the annual Bilkent Day Conference and a commemorative concert.
All of the day’s events took place in the Bilkent Concert Hall. The Bilkent Day Conference opened with remarks by Prof. Gülsev Kale, chair of the Board of Trustees, on Prof. Doğramacı’s ideals and continuing influence: “I believe that as members of the ever-growing Bilkent family, today and on every April 3rd, it is the duty of every one of us to ensure that future generations are conscious of Professor Doğramacı’s personal values and his struggles to make his visions materialize.”
Prof. Kale continued, “He conceived of Bilkent University as early as 1967. Today, İhsan Doğramacı’s Bilkent University embraces diverse educational programs encompassing the sciences, technology and the arts. It provides an inspiring environment for students with its advanced research and learning facilities. Students are encouraged to be inquirers and thinkers in line with the fundamental aim of creating a center of excellence, which is distinguished by Bilkent’s high-quality education and pride in its alumni pursuing successful careers. These are possible thanks to the wisdom and foresight of İhsan Doğramacı, who bequeathed the university to the country’s youth.”
Following Prof. Kale’s speech, the event continued with a presentation on “The State of the University” by Rector Prof. Kürşat Aydoğan, in which he gave a summary of the year, highlighting the university’s most recent academic, educational and research accomplishments. The presentation included various statistics concerning students, faculty, research and awards as well as university budget items.
Prof. Aydoğan concluded his remarks with gratitude to Hocabey: “With immense gratitude to our founder, we work with a firm dedication to build on his vision and carry this great university to further heights in education and research. Thank you all for your contributions to this mission.”
Next, Prof. Polat Gülkan from Başkent University’s Department of Civil Engineering gave his speech, “An Engineer’s Idle Thoughts on the Prediction of Earthquakes.” Prof. Gülkan is a well known earthquake engineer who has written many international books and articles on the subject of earthquake engineering. He served as the chairperson of the Earthquake Engineering Association. Last month he was elected as an international member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in the US. He has also set up an earthquake prevention system in Bilkent Erzurum Schools. Dr. Gülkan began his speech by commemorating Prof. İhsan Doğramacı with these words: “In 1666, after the Great Fire of London, Christopher Wren, the great architect sent by the king to replan and rebuild the city, finished his work and laid the backbone of today’s London. He is buried in his masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral. If you read the epitaph, it says if you want to know what this man has done, look around you. It is the same here: if you are wondering what our esteemed professor İhsan Doğramacı has done, all you must do is look around you at Bilkent and Hacettepe.”
In his speech, Prof. Gülkan talked about the past and present of the earthquake by referring to the aphorisms of scientists, philosophers, artists and writers such as Richard P. Feynman, Aristotle, Einstein, Hieronymus Boschen and Leonardo Da Vinci. “Ground motion prediction equations have a short shelf life because they are discarded soon after the next strong earthquake ground motions have been recorded by sensors. This is post-event wisdom,” Prof. Gülkan underlined. He talked about Turkey’s earthquake hazard and the Istanbul earthquake. He concluded, “Waste no time in the futile chase for earthquake prediction. It isn’t worth the bother. Some experts in the media are what Charles Richter warned against. Build safely in the traditional way because it is far more achievable.”
The final event of this year’s Bilkent Day was a special concert by the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, which took place in the concert hall that evening. The performance began at 8 p.m., with Gürer Aykal as conductor and Gülsin Onay as piano soloist. The program featured Concerto for Piano No. 3 by Sergei Rachmaninov, “The Moldau” by Bedřich Smetana and “Spanish Capriccio” by Nikolay Rimski-Korsakov.
At the end of the concert, the choir consisted of 56 Bilkent Music Preparatory School students took their places in the concert hall and sang the Bilkent Anthem, reinforcing the meaning of the day.