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Gönül, (Daime) Sevgi

Gönül, (Daime) Sevgi

Gönül, (Daime) Sevgi

Gönül, (Daime) Sevgi (b. June 5, 1938, Keçiören, Ankara – d. September 12, 2003, Istanbul), née KOÇ, businesswoman, philanthropist and collector. She was a member of the Koç Holding Board of Directors (1964-2003), member of the Vehbi Koç Foundation(VKV) Board of Directors (1970-2003), president of the Sadberk Hanım Museum Executive Committee (1980-2003), president of the Geyre Foundation (1987-2003), a member of the Koç University Board of Overseers (1993-2003), and president of the Turkish Numismatic Association (2003).

Born at the family’s orchard house in Keçiören, Ankara (now the VEKAM[*] operational center), she was the third child of Vehbi Koç and Sadberk Koç, after Semahat Arsel and Rahmi M. Koç. She completed her elementary education in Ankara at the Turkish Education Association (TED) Elementary School, before attending Istanbul Arnavutköy American College for Girls (see Robert College). She attended boarding high school in London, followed by a year at finishing school in 1955. She said that if she had continued in education, she might have wanted to be an art historian and have an academic career.

“As a child of the Republic, I played with rag dolls.”

As a child of the Republic, I played with dolls made out of rags. When I was a little older, we began playing with paper dolls. My cousin Nezahat Aktar Hanif, who died a long time ago, used to draw beautifully. Suna and I would beg her to make us dolls and paint them for us. And dolls weren’t enough for us, we would also ask for dresses and she would draw, paint and cut them out for us. I’m still surprised we didn’t turn out to be fashion designers. Because Suna and I were of similar ages, we would each receive one of the same toy or just one that we would be asked to share. That’s how we learned to share when we were young, though it took some noise and fighting to get there.

If I remember correctly, my father brought our first doll from Hungary and it had Hungarian clothes, blond hair and pigtails dangling on either side of its head. My father also got me a Nutcracker doll, though I don't know where he got it from. It had huge teeth, a black beard and mustache, and when it opened its mouth, it scared us out of our wits. My mother hid the Nutcracker in the dresser in the lounge because we were so afraid of it; I was almost too scared to go into that room. When I think about it now, I laugh, but I also feel annoyed that we were brought up to be such cowards.

We would play tic-tac-toe and knucklebones at our orchard house. One of our greatest pleasures was to draw a grid with chalk and play the game with stones we found in the garden. Meanwhile Rahmi would labor away, making his own slingshot and try to hunt birds in the garden; my mother would get very angry at this habit of his and take the slingshots away and hide them. One day, Rahmi discovered the place where she had hidden his slingshots and was so happy he didn’t know what to do with himself.

Later on, lovely dolls and toys were brought from America. When I was 10, I was taken to America. It was Christmas time and I loved the lights, the Christmas decorations and the toys that I saw all around me. I wasn’t allowed to buy every toy, but that was where I first saw a jigsaw puzzle and thought it was amazing.
Sevgi Gönül, Sevgi’nin Diviti (From Sevgi’s Pen), Vehbi Koç Vakfı Yayınları, Istanbul, 2003, pp. 252-54; Hürriyet, April 27, 2003

Sevgi Gönül began her working life as a secretary at Bürokur, a subsidiary of the Koç Group. In 1962, she married Erdoğan Gönül, one of the directors of the Koç Group, who was also director of production control at Otosan at that time.

Undoubtedly, Sevgi Gönül inherited her curiosity and interest in history and antiquities from her mother, Sadberk Koç, whose greatest wish was to establish a museum to preserve the pieces she had collected throughout her life, so they would be passed on for future generations. On October 12, 1980, seven years after her death, Sadberk Koç’s dream became a reality with the opening of the Sadberk Hanım Museum, Turkey’s first private museum, at the historic Azaryan Mansion in Büyükdere, Istanbul. Sevgi Gönül played the chief role in the foundation of the Sadberk Hanım Museum and its development into an internationally renowned cultural institution. She was president of the executive committee and over time enriched Sadberk Koç’s collection. The additional museum building, opened in 1988 to facilitate a more contemporary approach to exhibitions, was named the “Sevgi Gönül Building” and received the Europa Nostra Award (see Europa Nostra Awards) in the same year.

In 1987, Sevgi Gönül spearheaded the establishment of the Geyre Foundation, which supports scientific research and analysis into the archeology of the ancient city of Aphrodisias, which is in the village of Geyre in the Karacasu district of Aydın province; the foundation also aims to develop a museum on the archaeological site. She remained president of the foundation until her death.

Aiming to popularize research into the Byzantine period in Turkey and encourage society to lay claim to its cultural heritage, Sevgi Gönül worked hard to encourage a tradition in Turkey similar to that which she had witnessed in other countries, where events sharing scientific studies in the field had been ongoing for many years. As a result of her efforts, the symposium, which is supported by VKV and has gathered every three years since 2007, was named the International Sevgi Gönül Byzantine Studies Symposium.

Why isn’t there a Byzantium museum in Istanbul?

The Eastern Roman Empire was established in 330 and ended in 1453 when Mehmet the Conqueror took Istanbul. This is a civilization that reigned for many years, but Istanbul seemingly has no museum to represent its artistic works and show them to the world; I don’t understand why. That’s not all; there’s no department of the Byzantine era at Istanbul University either.

Art historians receive a class on Byzantine art as a mere formality. So it is the Greeks who lay claim to the history and art of the Byzantine era. Why are we leaving it to them? Why are we leaving the Greeks to lay claim to this history? I don’t understand it. There isn’t a proper Byzantine art historian in Turkey. The few that have existed didn’t know Greek and failed to train others properly. I suspect that they were not doing the job out of enjoyment. A Byzantine Congress will be held in Paris soon, on August 19; I wonder how many brave Turkish scholars will go along to present papers and represent Turkey.

I once tried to organize a Byzantine Congress as part of the Sadberk Hanım Museum; the top academics working on Byzantium and the then Minister of Foreign Affairs did everything they could to stop it happening. If that had happened to me today, I wouldn’t have listened to anyone, I’d have just gone ahead. Our society doesn’t know how to appreciate its assets. If it were up to me, I’d do it twice a year: at Christmas I would decorate all of Haghia Sophia with oil lamps and play Byzantine music to attract the attention of the Christian world and collect donations; and at Laylat al-Qadr, I would light all the lamps, sing hymns and collect funds from Muslims. At least I could go some way towards lightening the financial burden of Haghia Sophia, an international masterpiece which requires constant care. If such a thing was achieved, the whole world would queue to witness it.
Sevgi Gönül, Sevgi’nin Diviti (From Sevgi’s Pen), p. 42; Hürriyet, August 5, 2001

Sevgi Gönül was a close follower of Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy, and contrary to Koç family custom, she played an active role in politics. In the 1994 local elections, she was elected city councilor for the Motherland Party (ANAP) for Beşiktaş district in Istanbul and remained active on the municipal council until her death.

In June 2001, Sevgi Gönül began a weekly column in the Sunday supplement of Hürriyet newspaper. In her columns, published under the title “From Sevgi’s Pen”, she discussed a wide range of topics from jewellery, painting, music, fashion, museums and collecting, to love, womanhood and manhood. She wrote with an ironic and witty tone, typically including thoughts from her travels and references to the lives of famous people who had made their name on the world stage through their contributions to art and culture. Her writing covered social, economic and political issues and compared the state of affairs in Turkey with positive examples from the Western world, evaluating it all with the eye of a businesswoman. Sevgi Gönül continued her column until the death of her husband in July 2003, writing her final column for him. She herself died in September of the same year, and some time later her writings were collected and published by the VKV as a book titled Sevgi’nin Diviti (From Sevgi’s Pen).

The Sevgi Gönül Cultural Center, based on Koç University’s Rumelifeneri Campus and in use since 2001, hosts a wide range of cultural events, including the Sevgi Gönül Theater Days and The Dance Festival. One of the Koç School’s traditional events is the Sevgi Gönül Art Night, which has been held annually since 2004. The floor exhibiting the Orientalist Painting Collection at the Pera Museum, which opened in 2005, was renamed the Sevgi-Erdoğan Gönül Gallery in memory of the couple. The TEGV education park, established in Şanlıurfa using the fund created by the VKV from Sevgi Gönül’s will, was renamed the Sevgi-Erdoğan Gönül Education Park in 2011.

Abadan Unat, Nermin

Political scientist who received the Vehbi Koç Award for education in 2012.