Education is a societal priority

Dr. Yılmaz Argüden, TAC'76

Donation Type: Campus Naming and Graduate Class Scholarship

Please tell us about yourself. When did you graduate and what did you do afterwards?
After TAC, I graduated as valedictorian of my class from Boğaziçi University. I earned my PhD in strategic analysis in the USA and then worked at the World Bank. Accepting the invitation of the late Adnan Kahveci, I returned to Turkey to take charge of the Privatization Program and served as the Chief Economy Advisor to the Prime Minister. In 1991, I founded ARGE Consultancy to add value to the clients’ businesses by improving management quality. ARGE became a globally recognized Turkish management consulting firm, named by the European Parliament among the top three exemplary companies for Europe for its corporate social responsibility work, elected a B20 Governance & Sustainability Information Partner and used as a case study in world universities. To date, ARGE has undertaken over a thousand strategy, business excellency, human resources system and institutionalization projects for more than 400 companies.

I served as an independent director on the Boards of more than 60 companies and as Chairman in some others (such as Erdemir and Rothschild-Turkey). I taught strategy courses at various institutions such as Boğaziçi University, Koç University and the Military Academies. I penned over 30 books, which have been translated into various languages. I was named among the “100 Global Leaders of the Future” by World Economic Forum.

I have also assumed international responsibilities, especially in governance, at the IFC Advisory Board, Business at OECD Governance Committee and World Economic Forum. I was elected Global President of the National Networks and served on the Executive Board of UN Global Compact, the world's most recognized sustainability platform.

I set aside one day a week for volunteering work. I have worked for several associations and foundations such as KalDer, TEGV, TESEV, Private Sector Volunteers Association, BÜMED, Turkish-American and Turkish-Canadian Business Councils in founding and/or leadership roles. The National Quality Movement was launched during my term as President of KalDer, and the BURC facilities while I was the President of BÜMED. Through the non-profit Argüden Governance Academy, which operates within the Boğaziçi University Foundation, I work to build a community of trusted organizations.

I tried to carry on the sportsmanship spirit, which I learned in Tarsus and that we crowned with Turkish Basketball Championship, by playing on the two-time Turkey champions Boğaziçi University basketball team, heading the Sports Council and organizing the first international SportsFest event. After serving on the Board of Anadolu Efes Basketball Club, I now strive to contribute to the development of basketball as a member of the Turkish Basketball Federation Board of Directors.

In short, I keep working to improve quality of life by developing the management quality in several different organizations and environments.

What does it mean to be a TAC alumnus for you?
Being a TAC alumnus means applying constant development as maxim and taking responsibility for a better community. TAC’s slogan is “Leaders for Turkey, Leadership for the World.” TAC is indeed the leading educational institution in the country in terms of the percentage of alumni to assume responsibility at the highest management level. More than just numbers and ratios, TAC is a school that raises true leaders in terms of qualifications as well. The fact that TAC graduates hold prominent positions such as TÜSİAD president, CEOs of the country's leading holdings and the global CEO of Coca Cola shows that the slogan is accepted as a serious goal. Not only for senior executives but also for entrepreneurs, scientists, politicians, athletes and artists counted among its graduates, TAC is a truly admired school in our country.

People usually feel connected to others with whom they learn together and succeed together. At Tarsus American College, we did indeed learn a lot from one another, not only academically but also socially. The friendships we built at TAC and the social consciousness, participation, dynamism and self-confidence that we gained continued to guide us after graduation.

People and communities are remembered for the traces they leave, not what they have experienced. And the most important contributions are those that help people to lead better lives with more quality and value. When these contributions are sustained and institutionalized, they can have permanent impact. Therefore, it is essential for the alumni to bequeath their material and moral support to TAC in order for this important institution to continue raising leaders for our country and the world. Taking ownership of this institution, where we gained important values, principles, skills and lasting friendships, should be our duty for as long as we live.

We should remember to thank TAC for giving us a wealth of friendships, strengthening our skills and improving our quality of life, and be grateful for what we have gained at Tarsus American College. And I believe we should show this gratitude with our financial and moral support.

How did you decide to donate to your school? Which factors affected your decision?
TAC is where we spent one of the best times of our lives and gained important qualities that shaped who we are. TAC also expanded our horizons in sports, arts and societal responsibility. We all learned English that opened us to the world and gained the knowledge that strengthened our economic status today. But above all, we built many of our lasting friendships in Tarsus.

I think we have some responsibilities toward an institution, which has given so much to us. I consider it a duty to contribute so that TAC can continue to instill the values that the ones privileged enough to be there gained in future TAC graduates. Such contributions help the school to increase its international competitive edge and also support the effective organization of a community of graduates, which we all feel proud of as alumni. 

Particularly because I also benefited from scholarships after my first year at TAC, I wholeheartedly feel the importance of giving future such opportunities in terms of developing individuals, promoting diversity and enhancing the learning environment. This is why I am proud of donating to our school and contributing to the development of the Health and Education Foundation, which ensures the sustainability of our schools.

I believe that these contributions should be supported not only in the form of financial aid but also through efforts such as institutionalization, organizing other graduates, generating ideas, and establishing systems. I would also like to thank all of our friends who adopt this approach and allocate their time and resources for the development of these institutions and create value.

What would you like to say about the programs you support?
I would like to emphasize how special the “campus naming” program is because it has given me an opportunity to commemorate my Parents, who dedicated everything they had to the education and development of their children, in the school where I spent an important period of my life when my character was shaped. I believe that the support, which the Class of '76 extends, is a small demonstration of the bonds of friendship, still going strong 40 years later, as one of the most important gains TAC has enabled. I also value the importance of including programs such as participatory democracy, children’s and human rights, gender equality, solidarity and volunteering, financial literacy, access to secure information and environmental awareness in the curriculum, with the implementation of the “Learning Child: responsible Individual” project developed by Argüden Governance Academy at our schools.

I would also like to say that I am honored to support the establishment of the Governance Committee, which aims to build the managements systems in the Health and Education Foundation and our schools, promote institutionalization and plan for the future, and assist the efforts of various people and institutions within this community to elevate our schools together.

Your support changes many young people’s lives and beyond that the future of a community. How does that make you feel?
I believe that education is a societal priority and that it very satisfying to contribute to the education of future generations. Education not only improves the quality of life of the learners, but also that of the community and the society at large. Therefore, ensuring that our youth receives adequate and good education is one of the most effective ways of improving social welfare. Well-educated people first reap benefits for themselves because their efficiency and effectiveness improve. For this reason, education level, even if it is not the only determinant, is a factor that affects the overall income level positively. Besides, the work environment is also more attractive in the sectors where well-educated people generally find jobs. Accordingly, the conditions of the environment where they spend most of their time affect their quality of life. Good education also affects quality of life positively in family relationships. For instance, good education is a factor that increases the total income levels of couples.

In a community where mothers are well educated, children also receive better education. Therefore, good education has a multiplying and motivating aspect in terms of intergenerational development. Again, children of well-educated families also benefit from better healthcare opportunities. Better nutrition and better care contribute to their physical and mental development. Well-educated people are observed to take better care of themselves, suffer less from stress and find solutions to their problems more easily. The fact that better quality products and services are demanded in a well-educated community also contributes to the development of the market.

A direct correlation has been identified between education level and population planning. Therefore, education can be the antidote of poverty. The level of education also has a positive correlation with volunteering and giving. Therefore, the motivation to voluntarily contribute to achieving societal peace and resolving social problems tends to be higher in a well-educated society.

Studies show that as the level of education increases, families tend to be more prepared for their own future. Therefore, education helps to establish a healthier income balance between age groups. As the level of education rises, innovations and technology are also adopted faster by the society. Accordingly, the level of education helps to increase R&D investments needed for development and added value.

Education has also been shown to reduce social extremes and crime rates. An educated community also means more safety. An educated community can make more informed choices and therefore ensure that markets function more efficiently and competitiveness increases. Accordingly, increasing the resources we as a community allocate for education would lead to a permanent improvement in our quality of life. We should also try to use the resources we allocate for education more efficiently.

The resources dedicated to education should be used to guide the youth toward thinking and adopting positive behavior patterns rather than memorizing information. We should strive to measure the success of our education system not according to the correct answers in entrance exams alone but more importantly by the behavioral and intellectual attributes instilled in the graduates.

What is your message to potential donors?
'A good person is one who is beneficial to people.' The greatest wealth is giving. More important than the amount of donation is its continuity and the sense of belonging brought about by giving. When people with better financial means support schools by material donations and people with knowledge and experience give their time in support, the outcome is good for them and the beneficiaries as well as the society at large.

Interview Date: December 2017

Röportaj Tarihi: Aralık 2017