What a month has June been for our wonderful institution... June is traditionally a very joyous time, but this year was different in so many ways.

We had the triple joy of multiple Commencement Ceremonies, our Board of Overseers meetings and most importantly we hosted the ceremony of our Vehbi Koç Foundation honoring two marvelous human beings and excellent scientists.

A little more than a year ago, the impact of COVID-19 on our lives was still quite prominent and thus the long-awaited face-to-face commencement ceremonies for both classes of 2020 and 2021 had to be once again postponed since an event with the magnitude of a commencement ceremony unfortunately still did not look realistic and possible at that time. Having then to delay yet again the face-to-face celebration of the graduation of our students, honoring their accomplishments and their time at Koç University was frustrating and disappointing. However, we as faculty and staff were also determined to enjoy our wonderful campus and experience the grandeur of the commencement ceremonies whenever a large, in-person event such as a Commencement was deemed safe.

Lo and behold, that time finally came during the week of June 20th, 2022. Commencement ceremonies for both classes 2020 and 2021 were held face to face on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, at our ‘College Green’ in front of the Henry Ford building, with huge turnouts on both days. A big round of applause goes to our graduates who had to go through the toughest time of this life altering pandemic.

With two highly successful ceremonies behind us, the focus was on June 25th which marked the 28th Commencement of Koç University. This ceremony was also full of excited graduates and their families, enjoying the wonderful campus and the main ceremony in the morning as well as the graduation ceremonies for their colleges and schools in the afternoon. For all of us, it was a huge treat to be able to host our graduating class and their families face-to-face at our College Green after a long three year hiatus and the excitement in the air was palpable and truly electric.

Our Commencement speaker this year, Mr. John Elkann, gave an inspiring address, drawing from his own experiences as the Chief Executive Officer of Exor N.V. with a portfolio including companies such as Ferrari, Stellantis, CNH Industrial, Iveco Group, the Italian football team Juventus, and also two media groups like The Economist and GEDI, the largest of Italy, Chairman of Stellantis N.V. and Ferrari N.V., where he grew his family business exponentially over the last decade, with a bold and progressive vision, while ensuring its longevity and endurance.

His advice to our graduating class on having a constant quest to study and never ceasing to learn and his words on entrepreneurship were some of the highlights from his speech where he also mentioned a fascinating link between our country and his family. Mr. Elkann's grandmother lived in Türkiye in the late 1930s when his great-grandfather, Filippo Caracciolo, was assigned to the Italian embassy in Ankara. Surely, a few years later, the opportunity arose to forge bonds between his family business activities and the Koç Family with Türk Traktör and later TOFAŞ. Please watch his address on our YouTube channel, as it was so inspirational for all of us.

The wonderful heartfelt address of the Chairman of our Board of Trustees Professor Nur Yalman added much energy and zest to our already dynamic ceremony. A few thoughts that we would like to reiterate from his address: 'Our Koç University has come close to the top universities in the world and the diplomas you take with you today are more valuable than gold. Our own glorious history, deep culture, and values, distilled from the oldest civilizations the world has ever seen, are what make us magnificent and rich. Do not give credit to such shallow definitions as 'underdeveloped' from western and some colonist countries as these are dated words of the 19th century. None of these countries can come close to us in terms of humanity. The single most important attribute you must possess is being kind and good to people.' We all wholeheartedly agree with these sentiments, and are thankful to our Chairman for underscoring them so very powerfully. Let us not forget that his words are coming from someone who has spent a good part of his life abroad, teaching and doing research at top international universities such as Harvard, Cambridge and University of Chicago.

We also had our first international Valedictorian, Shadi Hamdan in Computer Science who stood out among his highly talented and successful peers and achieved the highest academic grade point average for the Class of 2022. Here is to hoping that he may be the torchbearer of Koç University for many more to come.

Another annual event of great importance for us this month was our Board of Overseers meetings, sandwiched between our three Commencement Ceremonies during June 22nd thru 24th. These meetings involve a detailed all-day presentation to the Overseers on our progress, successes and challenges, including extensive free discussion, followed by a second day of their meetings with delegations of individual Colleges/Schools and Graduate Institutes. During the third day, Boards of Overseers and Trustees meet together without and subsequently with the university administration, providing a unique opportunity for the Trustees to hear all important feedback and advice from our esteemed visitors. This year was the 29th meeting of our Board of Overseers and their advice and counsel has for long been our guiding light and measure of merit, contributing significantly to the development of Koç University as a global center of excellence in education and research.

In conclusion, here is a recap of a wonderful night, where our University was honored to host two world renowned scientists, Professor Özlem Türeci and Professor Uğur Şahin, co-founders of BioNTECH, the company behind the mRNA vaccine that protected humanity against the deadly COVID-19 virus, the cause of the global pandemic that debilitated our lives us for more than two years.

It was truly a magnificent evening where we had the privilege of hosting these two remarkable people, Professor Türeci and Professor Şahin, at our University. In their persons, we were able to observe once again that excellent research and science only works through collaboration while carrying this responsibility with a humility, pure passion and rigor for science and a true curiosity for progress and advancement is key.

Professor Özlem Türeci and Professor Uğur Şahin received the Vehbi Koç Foundation's first-ever “Outstanding Service to Humanity Award“ during a wonderful ceremony, held at our very own Sevgi Gönül Auditorium where we were more than thrilled to also confer upon them Honorary Doctorates (Honoris causa) in Medicine presented by our Honorary Chairman of Board of Trustees, Rahmi Koç in recognition of their achievements in the development of preventive and therapeutic use of messenger RNA (mRNA) for cancer and infectious diseases.

One hopes that these accolades both from our University and our Foundation have opened up the doors of our country to the roots of these truly special scientists and that we may have many more opportunities to enjoy their company.

Now we are onto summer, when we shall meet our new incoming class of another group of marvelous students. However, before that, Bayram holidays in July may hopefully serve as a well-deserved break for all in our community after a very busy academic year.