Boğaziçi University

Robert College was founded in Istanbul,Turkey, by Dr.Cyrus Hamlin, an educator, inventor, technician, architect and builder, and Mr. Christopher Rheinlander Robert, a well-known philanthropist and a wealthy merchant from New York.


Initially Dr. Cyrus Hamlin, an ingenious New Englander of versatile talents, came to Turkey in 1839 to start a seminary for boys where he taught until 1860. He met Mr.Robert in 1856 during the Crimean War. As Robert’s steamer was pulling into the Port of Istanbul, he noticed a boat full of delicious looking white bread. His curiousity aroused, he found out that this bread had been baked by Cyrus Hamlin for the wounded British soldiers hospitalized at the Selimiye Barracks near Uskudar. Subsequent meetings of these two men, oddly enough both of Huguenot descent, brought about the founding of the oldest American College outside of the United States.

Robert agreed to carry the greates part of the financial burden while Hamlin was to raise funds in the United States and take over the responsibilty of founding the college. A curriculum was drawn up, and Hamlin insisted that English should be the language of instruction. According to the stipulations made by the newly established Board of Trustees, the College was to open its doors to students of all races, nationalities and religions without prejudice or discrimination. In addition, at Robert’s request, the College was under no circumstances to become politically involded or show any political inclinations.

After considering several possibilities, Hamlin finally found what he thought was the ideal location for a college. It was a plot of land with a stone quarry belonging to Ahmet Vefik Pasa. The same quarry had been used by Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Mehmet the Conqueror) when he built his mighty fortress, Rumelihisari, on the European shore of the Bosphorus in 1453, just before conquering Constantinople. This blue limestone was used for all the College buildings constructed until the First World War.

At first Ahmet Vefik Pasa did not want to sell the land but, after being recalled from Paris where he had been the Sultan’s Ambassador to the court of Napoleon III, he was obliged to start negotiations and in 1861 decided to sell. The payment was to be made as soon as the ministry of education granted the permission to build; Hamlin was informed that no construction work could be commenced without the Sultan’s decree. Since Hamlin was aware that it might take a long time to receive such a decree, he rented the now-empty seminary building from the Mission Board.Robert College was named after is benefactor, Christopher Rheinlander Robert, and was granted a charter with the pover to confer a Bachelor of arts Degree on its graduates. On September 16, 1863, it opened its doors to students with Dr.Cyrus Hamlin as its first President.

The Sultan’s decree was finally granted and on July 4, 1869, the cornerstone of the first building, appropriately called Hamlin Hall, was laid. Dr.Hamlin personally attended to the smallest details regarding the construction. He analyzed the mortar used for the Rumelihisar Castle and made the same for his building which was designed like an old Turkish inn or caravanserai with an open courtyard in the center. Hamlin Hall was completed in 1871. A large, one-storey building was added at the back of Hamlin Hall in 1873 but was pulled down when Washburn Hall was constructed thirty years later.

Although Dr.Hamlin tried to raise an endowment for the College, he never succeeded. In 1869, his son-in-law, Dr. George Washburn, who had taught at Robert College between 1865 and 1868, was sent back by the Trustees to take over the administrative work. This made Hamlin uneasy because his relationship with his son-in-law was growing more tense. Hamlin disapproved of Washburn’s idea of expansion and his involvement in politics. Moreover, his plan to found a girls’ college was turned down by Robert. The personality clash between Hamlin and Washburn grew to such an extent that, on September 26,1873, Hamlin left for the United States never to return to Turkey. Washburn had already been made Director by the Trustees in May, 1872, and when Hamlin was asked to resign from the presidency in March 1877, Washburn became the second President of the College until his retirement in 1903. Hamlin continued working in the United States until his death on August 8, 1900, at the age of eighty-nine.

When Mr.Robert died in October 1878, Robert College was left to fend for itself. He bequeathed his real estate at Lookout Mountain and one-fifth of this general estate to the college, and endowment was started with the money received from the sale of these estates.

The second building constructed on the College property was the residence built by Professor Alexander Van Millingen in 1881. Professor Van Millingen, who was an expert on Byzantine history and taught at the College from 1878 until his death in 1915, built the house with the understanding that it would go to Robert College after his demise. However, because Mr. and Mrs. George H. Huntington lived there for a long period of time, it was called the Huntington House. In 1986, it was renovated and tranformed into the Heritage Museum. Furniture, books and documents bequeathed by Eveline A. Scott, the last resident of this house, constitute the nucleus of this museum.

John Steward Kennedy, Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1895 until 1919, gave generously to the College. In 1891, a house for the President of the College was built with his donations. A large house with a marvelous view of the Bosphorus, Kennedy Lodge, as it was called, was the Presidential residence from 1891, when the Washburns moved in, until 1971, when Dr. John Scott Everton departed from the College. Today the ground floor is used as dining-room for teachers, the upper floors as a guest house and the basement as a restaurant Furthermore, all kinds of social gatherings are held here.

Kennedy also gave funds for six professors’ houses and a wall to be built around the College property. The $1.500.000 he bequeathed to Robert College helped to build the west wing of the Engineering Building (1912) and Anderson Hall, a dormitory-classroom building completed in 1913.

Designed by Alfred Dwight Foster Hamlin, son of Cyrus Hamlin, the second academic building to be erected was completed in 1892. Initially it was called Science Hall but, after the death of Albert Long, who had served the College from 1872 until 1901 as natural history professor, it was renamed Albert Long Hall. It was furnished by Mrs.Davies, the sister of Mrs. Van Millingen. The Chemistry Department was in the basement, the library and the Department of Physics on the first floor, and the upper storey was used as an auditorium. One of the five most famous organs of the world, donated by Mr.Cleveland H. Dodge in 1914, is housed on this floor.

As soon as Hamlin Hall was completed, it became apparent that the preparatory Department should occupy a separate building. In the summer of 1898, when Washburn went to the United States, he visited Olivia Eggleston Phelps Stokes, the daughter of a wealthy banker from NewYork, to get her interested in donating the necessary funds for a new building. Unfortunately she was away in Europe, but a letter from her was waiting for Washburn in Istanbul, saying that she was ready to finance the construction of a new building . It was built on the land purchased from Ahmet Vefik Pasa in 1871 and was ready for occupation in 1902. On the special request of Miss Stokes, it was named Theodorus Hall or the `Gift of God’. Today it is used as a women’s residence hall.

Dodge Gymnasium was also constructed of the blue limestone quarried on the campus. It was financed by Cleveland H.Dodge, Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1909 until 1926, and his father, William E. Dodge. For many years it was the first modern gymnasium in Europe and had the only indoors running track in Turkey. The first basketball game in Turkey was played here in 1908.

In 1929, Miss Olivia Phelps Stokes also provided the funds for a gymnasium to be built behind Theodorus Hall for the Preparatory Department students. This building has been turned into a men’s hall of residence.

Washburn Hall or the present-day Economics and Administrative Sciences Building was financed by Mrs. William E.Dodge, the widow of Mr. William E.Dodge. This classroom-office building was completed in 1906 and named after President George Washburn who had resigned from the presidency in 1903. Washburn Hall, like the other buildings constructed before the First World War, was built of the blue limestone quarried on the campus. The top floors, that is, the fifth floor and half of the fourth floor, once housed a Natural History Museum of great value.

During the presidency of Dr.Caleb Frank Gates (1903-1932) , the first tennis courts were built, Hamlin Hall was renovated, a new lighting and heating plant was installed, new property was purchased again from Ahmet Vefik Pasa on which a road winding up the hill was constructed in 1913, and the new entrance from the waterfront became the main approach to the school.

Anderson Hall or the Science and Literature Building as it is called today was also completed in 1913. This dormitory-classroom building was constructed with the funds bequeathed to the College by John S.Kennedy and was named after Professor Charles Anderson because of his long service to the College (1869-1918). Today it is used as a classroom-office building.

When Gates became President in 1903, Robert College was ready for more expansion and modernization. Gates felt that Turkey needed to train and educate its own engineers, and with the money left by John S.Kennedy, he wanted to start an engineering school. In 1909 he went to the United States where he succeeded in getting the approval of the Trustees to go ahead with his proposed project. At first he arranged for John R.Allen, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, to come and supervise the setting up of the new Engineering School at Robert College. The construction of the Engineering Building, subsequently called Gates Hall, began in 1910, but only the west wing was finished by 1912. Initially, it was designed to be U-shaped but later this plan was abandoned. Due to the Balkan Wars,World War I and the establishment of the new Turkish Republic, the building , as it stands today, was completed in 1931. It is four storeys high and planned to follow the slope of the hill so that each floor has its own separate entrance.

When the time came for Allen to return to the United States, Gates had to find the right person to finish all the work concerning the new Engineering School by the fall of 1912. This person was Lynn Scipio, came out on a three-year contract in 1912, but stayed until 1942.

Henrietta Washburn Hall or the Social Hall, it is called today, was financed by Mr.Cleveland H. Dodge. It was completed in 1914 and named after Henrietta Loraine Washburn, daughter of Cyrus Hamlin and wife of George Washburn. Used as a recreational hall by the students, it contains a theater, lounges, club rooms and a canteen.

John Sloane Infirmary was constructed during 1913-1914.

It was a gift of William Sloane, a former trutee of the College, and dedicated to the memory of father who had also been a trustee. It was an eighteen-bed hospital with lying-in facilities on the first floor and a clinic, two flats for the staff on the ground floor. Today it is used as a men’s residence.

The Van Milligen Library, which also housed administrative offices, was completed in 1932. It is said to be the first modern library in Turkey. When Alexander Van Milligen died in 1915, he left his house, his library and one thousand pounds sterling to the school. With this money, the Van Milligen Fund was started, eventually financing a new building. The area known as the ‘Quarry’ was selected for the site of the new building and Professor Scipio drew up the plans. It housed the finest Near East Collection in this part of the world. Today it is used as the Executive Building, encompassing the offices of the President and Vice-Presidents of Bogazici University. Perkins Hall, the new Engineering Building, was designed by Professor Aptullah Kuran. This building, dedicated to the memory of George W.Perkins, a former trustee of the College, was inaugurated in May 1963 during the Centennial Celebrations of the College.

When Gates retired in 1932, serious financial cuts were being considered. Both Robert College and the American College for Girls were hit by the economy of the economy of post-war Turkey and the depression in the United States. It was during this time that the first step towards a merger with the Girls’ College was taken when Dr. Paul Monroe was appointed President of both schools in 1932. Moreover, certain administrative positions and instructors were to be shared, thus cutting down the number of salaries to be paid. Teaching staff was reduced to a minimum and cuts in salaries were made, which caused academic loss.

During President Wright’s time (1935-1943), the financial situation was improved due to the efforts made by Dr. Monroe and the curriculum was revised. But no sooner had most of the problems been solved than World War II broke out, bringing more difficulties, even though Turkey maintained its neutrality.

In 1944, Dr. Black was appointed President. The major problems that confronted him were also financial. He had to take strict economic measures in order to save the College from bankruptcy. By the 1950’s the College’s prestige had increased and public relations were at their best. Dr. Ballantine, who had replaced Dr. Black in 1955, had a dynamic personality. His plans were to revitalize Robert College academically and eliminate the Academy’s Secondary School in order to make way financially and physically for a well-rounded program of higher education. In 1958 he was able to obtain the necessary permission from the Turkish Government.

An English Language Division was established in 1958, preparing high school graduates for entrance into any of the three schools. However, with these changes, the deficit grew considerably each year, with the tuition fees covering only one fourth of the cost of educating each student.

The School of Business Administration and the School of Sciences and Languages were established in 1959, in addition to the School of Engineering established in 1912.

Ballantine’s resignation in 1961 was followed by a succession of short-term presidents. Perkins Hall, the new Engineering Building, was completed during Dr. Malin’s presidency. When he died in 1964, Dr. Simpson became the President. He proposed the physical movement of Robert Academy to the Arnavutkoy Campus where it was to be combined, on a co-educational basis, with the existing American College for Girls, leaving the Hisar Campus entirely for higher education. Dr. Simpson had to resign due to ill health in 1967. Dr. Everton replaced him in 1968. In March 1971, he revealed the resolution passed on January 26, 1971, by the Board of Trustees to the effect that the Turkish government should be encouraged to establish an independent university as a successor to Robert College on either of the campuses. The merger was finalized in the summer of 1971. Today’s South Campus of 118 acres, including buildings, the library, laboratories and all facilities and personnel, was passed on to the Turkish government, and on September 10, 1971, Bogazici University was officially established on what had been the Robert College campus for over one hundred years.

Prof. Dr. Aptullah Kuran, a graduate of Robert College, became the first President (1971-1979). He was succeeded by Prof. Dr. Semih Tezcan (1979-1981), and then Prof. Dr. Ergun Togrol (1981-1992). In 1992, Prof. Dr. Ustun Erguder, a graduate of Robert College, was elected President by the Bogazici University faculty.

The University has expanded both physically and academically. One faculty and six institutes offering graduate programs have been added. Many of the University’s buildings are located on its South Campus, with the Bosphorus and the historical castle of Rumelihisar as its boundary to the east. This campus encompasses the oldest buildings of the University. The completion of the Main Library, the Science and Engineering Laboratories Building, the Faculty of Education Building, the Men’s Residence Hall II, the Women’s Residence Hall II and the Educational Technology Building has enhanced the North Campus. The Kandilli Campus, housing the observatory, was incorporated into the University in 1982, and the Hisar Campus in 1989. The University now has a lodging complex for the staff a residence hall and a large athletic complex on the Ucaksavar Campus. A resort near Kilyos on the Black Sea coast, called Saritepe Campus, was acquired in 1985, where a new complex of buildings is under construction. Also under constrution is an ultramodern dormitory (“superdorm”), the most developed student housing complex in Turkey.

It can safely be concluded that the sound academic traditions of Robert College form the nucleus of Bogazici University, with its expanding campus and inreasing popularity.

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