A Colorful Story by Özgür Karaosmanoğlu
As I grow older, I often find myself thinking about my parents and how blessed I am to have them. My parents taught me that the key to a happy life comes from working hard, being fair and giving back to those in need. It’s these virtues they passionately believed in and passed on to me made me who I am today.
Let me introduce you to my mother first. My mother, Şükriye, was born in a small town in Turkey. As a determined woman, she worked her way from a small village to an ivy-league school with a merit-based scholarship. She is the first woman from Muğla to study at Columbia University. She continued to surprise people with her intelligence and energy as she finished her undergraduate and graduate studies in a total of three years. It took me long time to believe that since I thought it was a trick to make me study harder in high school. To me, she is the perfect example of what young women can accomplish when they are provided with opportunities. Throughout her life, she has passionately supported equality in education. She took the lead in various nonprofit organizations, and advocated for quality education and gender equality. She told her story to young women, hoping to inspire them as well as to other listeners, to show them what women are capable of. And, she still does.
She inspired many people along the way including my father, Attila. My father’s story is a bit different yet as powerful and meaningful as my mother’s. He was a true bookworm -famous for reading all the books he could get his hands on since his childhood. He was also curious by nature, which made encyclopedias his favorite treat to read. A man, who enjoyed books this much naturally loved school. He started his studies in Political Science and moved towards Economics as he completed his PhD. His career, which started at the World Bank continued in the Turkish government. As a Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, he worked hard with his cabinet, conducted detailed researches and drafted economic policies to develop Turkey economically and socially. He dreamed big but understood that turning your dreams into reality is not always in your hands. When he wasn’t allowed to put the policies he and his team drafted into action, he resigned from his position. He went back to the World Bank and rose to become a Managing Director of the Bank. He also taught as a part-time lecturer at NYU as well as Harvard University.
My father met my mother in New York City in the 50s during his time at NYU. They got married in 1960. Through my mother, my father realized how privileged he was as a man. He learned about the other side of the coin and how women face inequalities throughout their whole lives. This understanding made him fight hard against gender discrimination in the workplace. He did his best to hire female employees just as capable as men and promoted his female colleagues when given the opportunity. He was already a passionate supporter of education yet with the influence of my mother he also became a champion of women’s rights.
My father was a great parent, husband and grandfather. However, most importantly, he was a great man. Throughout his life, he believed in moving forward through education and helping others. After he passed away from a respiratory failure, we turned our sorrow into a way of making his legacy live forever by establishing a memorial fund named after him at TPF. We invited his friends and colleagues to donate to the Attila Karaosmanoğlu Fund to support young and bright students. All the funds raised in his memory, are distributed by Çağdaş Yaşamı Destekleme Derneği as scholarships to students with financial difficulties. After witnessing the impact we made through his memorial fund, we decided to make his impact last forever. We transformed his memorial fund into a Donor Advised Fund. Since then, we are providing scholarships to his alma mater, Karşıyaka High School and the Faculty of Political Science at Ankara University annually. Through this fund, we are keeping a part of him, his passion for education, alive. Even though he has never met any of our scholarship recipients, we know that my father would’ve been proud of each and every one of them. We looking forward to see the difference they are going to make in the world someday, just like my father.