Prof. Kıcıman giving his speech in commencement day
Do what you love, love what you do. Do not enter the branch you do not like just to earn money. Money is not everything. Decisions can be made that do not cause resource waste. There is nowhere like Turkey in the world in which parents intervene so much about their children's future.
We memorialized our dear Prof. Dr. Mehmet Kıcıman who was the rector of METU between 25.06.1979 – 31.07.1982 and passed away in 2 May 2018, and we respect him with the quotations taken from the interview made in 1999 with him.
When did you begin your duty at METU?
In 1956, when I was serving as a reserve officer, I went to the building on the National Defense Street and made a job application. An American person working in there said, "Forget about this place and go to America." So I went to America to get my PhD degree.
In 1961, when I returned to Turkey, my friend from the military and also the brother of my wife, Ilgaz Alyanak, said “Let me introduce you to Mustafa Parlar". Then, I met with Mustafa Parlar and Murat Dikmen. They did not recommend me to start working immediately after coming from America. Then I started at METU in 1966.
When did you serve in METU?
I became a rector in June 1979 until August 1982. Before it, I worked as Vice President for two years and I was a department chair for 4-5 years and also worked as academic council member. It was the time full of negativities.
Did you feel the need to explain METU and its importance in this period?
I visited Çankaya Palace in order to explain the importance of METU for our country and dependence of Turkey’s future on the people who graduated from such universities... As an example; Kemal Gürüz, he was an assistant professor, explained one of his works. He told that importing coke causes currency loss and coke could be produced from local lignite.
How was the relations between METU and the other institutions?
METU was in a good relationship with all the ambassadors and the Prime Minister Bülent Ulusu.
Do you have some good memories which makes you smile?
One day, the ambassador of China visited us and we were visiting the Civil Engineering Department. At that time, students were playing table tennis, and I said that it is our national sport called Ping Pong and I asked if they also did this sport. His answer was; “what a coincidence, we call it like that, too.”
Also, in another time, we were visiting the campus with another ambassador and we entered the class. Then, he said, “I have never been in Turkey before, I was shocked that Turkish is so similar to English, I understand most of it.”
Was the department of Aerospace Engineering established during your period?
My main job is aircraft engineering and I worked on research aircrafts. I worked on the first space shuttle project. But the department was founded with great contributions of Cahit Çıray.
Did Turkey make breakthroughs in science and technology?
The biggest treasure of a country is the "brain". Not only in technology, but in economy, social sciences (except for administration), I already saw all of them as engineering. For instance, technical power was the reason of Germany’s development after the war. South Korea, sometime, had 165 men in the US who make a doctorate in only composite materials. This was happening slowly in Turkey as well. The advantage of our students was that they were becoming assistants, not a scholar in the US so they were locating in their system. The incoming of young people were extremely helpful ... There was about to be a lot of progress in the country. We were about to arrive at the full bounce point in the 1980s. Then suddenly this process was undermined.
How was the student-teacher relationship in METU in your time?
At my time, the teacher-student relationship was very good. They would come to our house for coffee in the evening. We went on field trips together. This was very good in the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences, and also in the department of Architecture. There were 12,000 students in 1983. A lesser number for an ideal campus students, that was supposed to be about 18,000 students.
Is there something you want to say to the students?
Do what you love, love what you do. Do not enter the branch you do not like just to earn money. Money is not everything. Decisions can be made that do not cause resource waste. There is nowhere like Turkey in the world in which parents intervene so much about their children’s future.
*The whole part of the interview can be found in the magazine of ODTÜLÜ’s 21st issue.