CM: The old Robert College, was born in 1863 in the village of Bebek by the Bosphorus, when Christopher Robert approached Cyrus Hamlin with his desires to establish in Turkey a modern university along American lines with instruction in English. Hamlin, an American schoolmaster, and Robert, a wealthy American industrialist, successfully collaborated to found Robert College.
In 1864, the Board of Regents of the State of New York granted a charter to Robert College enabling it to confer the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Five years later, an 'irade' (imperial decree) was secured, from the Sultan, confirming the right of the college to operate as an educational institution and gave it permission to build a proper campus on the heights of Rumelihisar by the Bosphorus. Hamlin immediately set to work on the new campus. His first building is a good example of the innovative aspect of the college spirit. Citing Hamlin Hall as the first example of truly modern use of steel girders, the historian Arnold Toynbee noted, "…it was built by an imaginative amateur on the shores of the Bosphorus, [and] not until the following century did the seeds sown by Hamlin begin to bear fruit in North America and in Western Europe.
What Hamlin and Robert planted indeed flourished. Under the subsequent leadership of George Washburn (1877-1903) and Caleb Gates (1903-1932) the college grew in size and scope through the help of benefactors such as John S. Kennedy, Olivia Stokes and members of the Dodge and Huntington families. By the early 20th century, Robert College had become a leading institution in the Middle East.
Always responsive to new ideas, the college adapted to changes in its environment. Originally the composition of its student body reflected the diverse ethnicity of the Ottoman Empire. With the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the school focused on educating the young of the Republic. Throughout the transitional period of the Turkish nation from a monarchic empire to a modern republic, the college maintained the strict political neutrality expected from an academic institution. Thus, its education of the leaders of the future went on without interruption, much to the benefit of the young republic.
Another idea of Cyrus Hamlin, of earth shattering novelty and importance for its time for Turkey, underlines the contribution of Hamlin to the college spirit. Having started Robert College for boys, Hamlin also wanted "... a female college or institution, which shall hold the same relation to female education that Robert College does to male". Hamlin did not fulfil this goal, but Mary Mills Patrick, from the faculty, did. She transformed the Home School into The American College for Girls, with herself as its president from 1890 to 1924. In keeping with modern tendencies the old Robert College and The American College for Girls united in 1971, in what became known as the new Robert College.
[Megakles Rogakos 12/2005]
ÖZENDES, ENGIN Abdullah Frères: Ottoman Court Photographers 1998 Yapı Kredi Yayınları, İstanbul
ÖZTUNCAY, BAHATTIN The Photographers of Constantinople: Pioneers, Studios and Artists from 19th Century Istanbul 2003 Yapı Kredi Yayınları, İstanbul