FOUNDERS
ALİ NİHAT GÖKYİĞİT

Nihat Gökyiğit was born February 23, 1925 in Artvin, Turkey. His family was one branch of the established Gokyiğitoğullar clan of Artvin. His father, Ahmet Hamdi Bey, was a local businessman who ran a dry goods business with his brother which they had inherited from their father. The goods sold in the store came from a grandfather in İstanbul, a man who Nihat Gökyiğit describes as "an amazing entrepreneur who learned the trade under incredibly difficult circumstances". Nihat Gökyiğit describes his first 15 years in Artvin as a fairytale, in a town with houses on large plots and green gardens and flowers where butterflies flew and where the children chased fireflies. After he graduated from the local primary and secondary schools, it was time for Nihat Gökyiğit to leave Artvin, because in those days, there was no further education in the town. In order for him to learn a foreign language, instead of sending him to a nearby high school, his father decided to send him to Robert College.

During the six years that I spent at Robert College, I always felt the importance of developing my self confidence, taking responsibility and joining in social, cultural and sports activities." To this end, the school encouraged its students to participate in clubs, organizations and associations. For each of theses activities, a faculty member acted as an advisor, mentoring without actually managing the program. Would students suffer academically by joining a few of these activities? Definitely not!

Nihat Gökyiğit joined a number of clubs and activities at school. Perhaps because two of his uncles were engineers, from the day he entered the school, Nihat Gökyiğit had it in his mind to become an engineer. From his first year, together with Feyyaz Berker they aimed to become civil engineers. After graduating from Robert College, like Feyyaz Berker, Nihat Gökyiğit decided to continue his studies at the University of Michigan in America. After a long voyage on a ship, the first thing that struck Nihat Gökyiğit when he got to New York was the brilliance of the night lights and the huge buildings that were wonders of engineering.

Nihat Gökyiğit was not on a scholarship. For this reason, throughout his student years, he worked at a number of jobs. From the moment he set foot in America, two things struck him:

Organization and equipment. Everywhere, you could see what it meant to be effectively productive. I was quite affected by this.

After he graduated from the University of Michigan in 1948, like Feyyaz Berker, Nihat Gökyiğit wanted to stay in America and learn about the business world. He took a job in Pennsylvania at the offices of Gannet Fleming Corddry and Carpenter, Inc. A year later, upon his return to Turkey, he applied for his military service without delay. Here, near the end of his translation and military service, he worked at the school of fortifications as an instructor in the area of materials.

His military service completed, Nihat Gökyiğit took a job with the American consortium of Metcalfe-Hamilton and Grove, who were undertaking the construction of military airbases around Turkey. As a result of his success in this position, his work caught the attention of Esat Turgut, who was at the head of the Airport Construction Authority. At his suggestion, Nihat Gökyiğit transferred to the Ministry of Public Works, and here, he got together with Feyyaz Berker again and Necati Akçağlılar. While he was working at the Ministry of Public Works, he took the job of chief controller at the Konya Airport that was just beginning construction. At a time when, under the leadership of Adnan Menderes, Turkey was liberalizing and greater importance was being given to personal initiative, he had come to a critical turning point in his career. Nihat Gökyiğit recalls that in 1956, when he left his job with the government, "while working on the construction of the airports, we had come to a point where we were either going to enter politics or start our own company. We chose the latter." Together with Feyyaz Berker, from here on, they set out on the road they had chosen.

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