Throughout Reinhardt’s history, our learning community has been open to students from around the world. Like many before her and many after, Dilek Sabanci, a citizen of the Republic of Turkey, attended Reinhardt in the mid 1980s. At the time, Reinhardt was a two-year school—Reinhardt College. “Our understanding is that Ms. Sabanci’s family was looking to send her to be educated in the United States,” said Mark A. Roberts, Ph.D., president of Reinhardt University, “and there was a recommendation that she consider a small college outside of Atlanta— Reinhardt.”
The connection between Reinhardt University and Sabanci was revealed to Roberts just last year. Not long after learning of the connection, Reinhardt board of trustee member Dr. Austin Flint invited Roberts to join him on a trip to Turkey. “It all just came together,” said Roberts, “and we went to Turkey.”
Roberts said the pandemic limited their ability to connect with Ms. Sabanci, but they were still able to meet in-person. “Ms. Sabanci was so kind to invite me to dinner with her, even as concerns over COVID-19 continued. We also met with the director of the Sabanci Foundation, which supports educational organizations. We were also able to visit the Sabanci Art Museum and I had the great opportunity to visit Sabanci University, meet SU’s president, and several students and faculty.”
“The visit with Sabanci University opened the door to establishing study abroad opportunities for our students and faculty, and for their students,” Roberts continued. “Creating a global connection in Turkey is exciting because it is a geographic and cultural bridge between the West and East.”
Roberts was glad for the opportunity to learn more about Sabanci and her time at Reinhardt. “Ms. Sabanci has had extraordinary successes in business, but she has turned her fortune into helping others through her philanthropy. She has a lot of compassion and wants to improve the world. It’s great to highlight Ms. Sabanci, both her business success and philanthropic work, because her achievements align with Reinhardt’s hope for all who attend and graduate from our great institution.”
Reinhardt is proud of the accomplishments of its students after they leave our educational program. Consider the global impact that Ms. Dilek Sabanci has had on improving the lives of others:
Dr.h.c. Dilek Sabanci
Dr.h.c. Dilek Sabanci is the Chair of the Board of Directors of Vista Tourism and Travel which she established in 1989. Vista Tourism and Travel is Turkey's largest travel and tourism company, which is also called destination management company in tourism. She runs this company with a very qualified CEO and around 100 qualified and dedicated staff. On the other hand, Ms. Dilek Sabanci is the member of the Board of Trustees of Sabanci Foundation.
Ms. Sabanci has contributed to variety of social responsibility and philanthropy initiatives in Turkey, where she dedicates most of her time and efforts to issues relating to persons with disabilities, youth and women. Her philanthropy focuses on children and young people with disabilities as she is the Vice-President of the Spastic Children’s Foundation of Turkey and Metin Sabanci Center, which carries her brother’s name Metin. The Spastic Children’s Foundation of Turkey (TSÇV) carries out its activities in Metin Sabanci Center.
Another activity that she takes care of is Special Olympics Turkey (TÖSSED), where she took the role of Honorary President. Special Olympics Turkey’s mission is to provide sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with an intellectual disability, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and participate in the community.
As the member of the Board of Trustees of Sabanci Foundation, which works with the philosophy of "sharing what we have obtained from this land with its people", Ms. Dilek Sabanci undertook the mission of her father Sakıp Sabanci in the areas of social responsibility and philanthropy. Sabanci Foundation carries out various important initiatives in the areas of education, arts-culture, and social change. Besides her work for persons with disabilities, Ms. Dilek Sabanci supports initiatives for gender equality in Turkey through various programs. Believing that social development could not be realized without women enjoying their rights equally in education, employment, and political participation, Ms. Sabanci supports gender equality in Turkey through two channels: joint programs and grant programs.
Sabanci Foundation conducted “Joint Program to Promote and Protect Human Rights of Women and Girls,” which lasted for 10 years in partnership with UN agencies and the Turkish Government to support initiatives at the local level and promote gender equality in local policies and service delivery. In the second phase of the program, local decision makers were trained on gender budgeting practices. Joint program, which was implemented in 17 cities in Turkey, was a stepping-stone for gender equality in Turkey as all the stakeholders worked in cooperation for creating new policies and mechanisms for gender equality.
Believing that the best solutions to social problems come from civil society organizations, Sabanci Foundation became the first foundation to launch a grant program for civil society organizations in Turkey. Sabanci Foundation conducts grant programs for 13 years, supporting NGOs working in the area of youth, gender and disability. The Foundation supported 164 projects, reaching more than 700 thousand people.
Around half of the grant support was channeled to projects on gender equality, involving issues ranging from education, economic empowerment, right-awareness, fighting with child marriages, political participation to the rights of women with disabilities.
The Purple Certificate Program, the long-lasting support of the Foundation, aims to mainstream gender equality awareness within the education system. It is conducted by Sabanci University Gender and Women’s Studies Center of Excellence. The Purple Certificate Program aims to contribute to the elimination of gender-based discrimination within the education system through high school teachers and faculty of education students. In this context, the Program works with teachers and prospective teachers in different cities of Turkey with the purpose of increasing gender awareness and equality in schools, classroom settings, classroom practices and teaching materials.
Another focus area of Sabanci Foundation is fighting against early and forced marriages. Sabanci Foundation has been supporting civil society organizations to end child marriages in a holistic manner, namely in local, national, and international levels. While supporting NGOs working at national and local levels since 2010, Sabanci Foundation also carries out international efforts in collaboration with Girls Not Brides platform to end child marriages. Recently, Sabanci Foundation supported United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) – Turkey for raising awareness about the adverse health consequences of early and forced marriages.
Unfortunately, Covid-19 outbreak deepens the current social problems and intensifies inequalities. Women and girls are experiencing the effects of the pandemic more intensely. The increase in the ratios of domestic violence and drop-outs of girls from schools are alarming, which is directly linked to early and forces marriages. Sabanci Foundation has always adopted the principle of listening to the needs of civil society while conducting its work. Thus, recently the Foundation organized an online meeting with 30 women’s organizations in Turkey in order to discuss the effects of the pandemic from a gender lens and come up with solutions and ways of collaborating.
As seen, Ms. Dilek Sabanci has an active role in the work of non-profit organizations in Turkey. Besides her relentless efforts for social change, Dr.h.c. Dilek Sabanci offered to the service of society two prominent institutions that bear her name: Dilek Sabanci Vocational and Technical Anatolian High School has a 1,750 student capacity and located in the Asian-side of Istanbul. And, Dilek Sabanci Art Gallery, located in Sakıp Sabanci Mardin City Museum, strives to constitute a modern and contemporary art platform with temporary exhibitions in the city of Mardin, Turkey.