American Robert College

Robert College

Robert College of Istanbul (Turkish: Istanbul Amerikan Robert Lisesi), is one of the most selective independent private high schools in Turkey. Robert College is a co-educational, boarding school with a 65-acre wooded campus on the European side of Istanbul between the two bridges on the Bosphorus, with the Arnavutköy district to the east, and the upscale Ulus district to the west.

The Institution is the oldest American school still in existence in its original location outside the United States. Robert College is accredited by the New York State Association of Independent Schools, European Council of International Schools, Council of International Schools and International Baccalaureate Organization.

Robert College has a long list of notable alumni, including entrepreneurs, political leaders, journalists, artists and one Nobel Prize recipient, Orhan Pamuk. The School is a member of the G20 Schools group.


In 1863, Robert College was founded in Bebek as the oldest American high school outside the borders of the United States. The school was founded by Christopher Robert, a wealthy American and a philanthropist, and Cyrus Hamlin, a missionary devoted to education. Six years after its foundation, with the permission of the Ottoman Sultan, the first campus (at present, it is the South Campus of Boğaziçi University) was built in Bebek at the ridge of Rumelia Fortress, very close to a Bektashi tekke, whose leaders maintained an excellent relationship with the Unitarian founders of Robert. The first building of the school was named "Hamlin Hall" in memory of Cyrus Hamlin. Few years after the foundation of Robert College, in 1878, Christopher Robert died. According to the article, A Millionaire's Will, published in New York Times (November 27, 1878), Robert left a great portion of his wealth to the College.

After Hamlin, Robert College was successfully administrated by George Washburn (1877-1903) and Caleb Gates (1903-1932). Though founded at the time of the Ottoman Empire as an institution of higher learning serving the Christian minority of the Balkans and the foreigners living in Istanbul, the school adopted a strictly secular educational model in accordance with the republican principles of Turkey in 1923. Robert College, in the past had junior high school, high school, and university sections under the names Robert Academy, Robert Yüksek and American College for Girls. Since 1971, the school has functioned only as a "high school" (more comparable to the French lycée in academic rigor) on its Arnavutköy campus (formerly the campus of American College for Girls), yet it retains the title of College. The Bebek campus was donated to the Republic of Turkey for use as the campus ground for what is now a leading public institution of higher learning, namely Boğaziçi University.

Through the education of succeeding generations of students, Robert College has assisted the economic and social progress in the Near East. It has also brought direct benefits to several generations of Americans- faculty members, trustees, students, contributors, and other friends of the College. Their close association with the heroic and hospitable people of Turkey has led to a greater appreciation of Turkish life and culture and the strong foundations on which the Republic of Turkey, our close friend and partner in peace, has been built. I send my cordial congratulations to the officers and friends of Robert College on the century of service you are so deservedly celebrating.|30px|30px|John F. Kennedy, President of the United States|Message for the Centennial Celebrations of Robert College, 1963

Major events

  • 1863, September 16: Robert College opened with 4 students at Bebek Seminary School.
  • 1922: President C. Gates and Hüseyin Pektaş (the first Muslim graduate and then Vice-President of the college) attended the Conference of Lausanne representing foreign educational institutions in Ottoman Empire.
  • 1932: With Dr. Paul Monroe, joint Presidency system was adapted by Robert College and American College for Girls.
  • 1957: Robert College was granted permission to become an institution of higher learning by the Republic of Turkey; Robert College "Yuksek" (High) was established.
  • 1971: The "Yüksek" was officially ended on May 18. The merger of American College for Girls and Robert Academy as a co-educational private institution with junior high and high schools, on the Arnavutköy campus was officially confirmed on September 1971. Robert College's Bebek campus was donated to the Republic of Turkey. Boğaziçi University was established as a public university in this campus.
  • 1998: With the adoption of the law for eight years of uninterrupted primary education in Turkey (junior high school became part of the primary education), the school no longer accepted students to its junior high school section.
  • 2001: The last junior high school students graduated and junior high school section was officially closed. Now, Robert College has Prep, 9, 10, 11, 12 grades, and accepts students who have finished compulsory primary education of eight years.

Robert College stands as a token of the close cooperation between Turkey and the USA. It is an institution which has made important contributions to the cultural life of this country and will continue to play a valuable part in the promotion of culture and education.|30px|30px|Cemal Gürsel, President of the Republic of Turkey|Message for the Centennial Celebrations of Robert College, 1963

List of presidents and heads

  • Cyrus Hamlin - 1863-1877
  • George Washburn - 1877-1903
  • Caleb Frank Gates - 1903-1932
  • Paul Monroe - 1932-1935
  • Walter Livingston Wright - 1935-1943
  • Harold Lorain Scott (Acting President) - 1943-1944
  • Floyd Henson Black - 1944-1955
  • Duncan Smith Ballantine - 1955-1961

  • Harold Locke Hazen (Acting President) - 1961
  • Patrick Murphy Malin - 1962-1964
  • James L. Brainerd (Acting President) - 1965
  • Dwight James Simpson - 1965-1967
  • Howard P. Hall (Acting President) - 1967-1968
  • John Scott Everton - 1968-1971
  • John Clay Chalfant - 1971-1977
  • James Richard Maggart - 1977-1981

  • Elizabeth Dabanovitch (Acting Head) - 1981-1982
  • Alan Donn Kesselheim - 1982-1984
  • Margaret A. Johnson (Interim Head) - 1984-1988
  • Harry A. Dawe - 1988-1992
  • Benjamin D. Williams III (Interim Head) - 1992-1993
  • Christopher Wadsworth - 1993-2001
  • Livingston Merchant - 2001-2005
  • John Russell Chandler - 2005-

I have come to express America's solidarity with the Turkish people at a time of national tragedy, and to reaffirm our partnership for a common future. We have been friends for a very long time. In 1863, the first American college outside the United States, Robert College, opened its doors to the youth of Turkey. It was the only foreign institution allowed along the Bosphorus, precisely because America had never encroached upon Turkish sovereignty. I'm very proud that Prime Minister Ecevit is an alumnus of Robert College.|30px|30px|Bill Clinton, President of the the United States|From his speech delivered to Turkey's parliament during his visit in November 1999, after the devastating earthquake in western Turkey on August 17, 1999



Robert College admits nearly 160-200 students each year, who have scored within the top two percentile in the Turkish national examination, which every Turkish student must take in order to study in a high school (secondary education) after they complete their primary education. The school had 968 students in the 2006-2007 academic year.


The faculty have an average of 22 years of teaching experience and the majority has either Turkish or United States citizenship. The school currently has a faculty who are 45% Turkish, 55% English native speakers (there are faculty from English speaking countries other than the United States, as well). Sixty-six percent of the full-time faculty hold masters degrees or higher.


Robert College is a five year high school, with the first year (Prep) being the English immersion year that prepares students for rigorous curriculum, which is mostly in English. English is the language of instruction used in science, mathematics, literature, psychology, physical education, art and music courses. Turkish is the required language of instruction in social sciences and Turkish language/literature. To graduate from the school, students have to complete a program averaging 6 courses per semester, which is designed to prepare them both for matriculation in an American college or university and for study at Turkey’s top universities.

General graduation requirements for students include (excluding the Prep year):

  • Four years of English Language and Literature,
  • At least two years of Mathematics,
  • One year each of Introductory Biology, Introductory Physics,and Introductory Chemistry.
  • Four years of Turkish Language and Literature,
  • One year each of Geography, History, Turkish Republican History, Philosophy and Military Science,
  • One year of Art elective.

If the above are successfully completed, then the student could graduate with the General Diploma. However, the other diploma types, namely:

  • Science Diploma,
  • Turkish-Math Diploma,
  • Social Studies Diploma,

have their own requirements as well as the general requirements.

  • For a Science Diploma, in addition to introductory sciences two of the three Advanced Sciences must be taken.
  • For a Turkish-Math Diploma, a one-year math course and a one-year Turkish course must be taken.

Advanced Placement electives

Other electives

  • Science: Advanced Physics, Advanced Biology, Advanced Chemistry, Modern Physics, Analog Electronics, Digital Electronics, Organic Chemistry, Advanced Topics and Independent Research in Biology, Global Science, Advanced Anatomy and Physiology.
  • English: Art Society and Literature, Literature and Technology, Modern Novel, World Literature, Advanced Shakespeare Studies, Advanced Writing, Modern Drama, Journalism, Film and Literature, Oral English, English for Technology, English for the Business World, AP English.
  • Turkish: Turkish Language, Literary Texts, Creative/Refined Writing and Speech, History of Literature, Folk Literature, Contemporary Short Stories and Novels, Turkish Theater, Contemporary Turkish Poetry, Western Literature.
  • Mathematics: Advanced Geometry, Probability and Statistics, Calculus, Advanced Calculus .
  • Computer Science: Web Applications, Social Issues in Computing, Introduction to Programming, AP Programming with Java.
  • Social Studies: Sociology, Logic, General Geography, World Economic Geography, Introduction to Psychology, Child Psychology.
  • Foreign Languages: German I-II-III-IV, French I-II-III-IV.
  • Arts: Photography, Advanced Photography, Graphic Art, Ceramics, Studio Art, Advanced Studio Art, Contemporary Art, Painting on Canvas, Art History, Advanced Music, Practical Music, Orchestra, Visual and Performing Arts.

Higher education

Robert College graduates traditionally continue their education in the United States or Turkey, though in recent years the number of students studying in Canada increased. Every year approximately 35-40% percent of the graduating class choose to study in the United States, whereas the ones wishing to study in Turkey get admitted to a university of their choice according to their score on the National Entrance Examination (ÖSS). In 2006, Robert College ranked first in all three sections of ÖSS among the private high schools in Turkey, with 76 out of 132 students taking the exam scoring in the top 0,3% (top 5000). Out of 104 students who chose to study in Turkey, 29 were admitted to Boğaziçi University, which is the highest ranking school in Turkey. 56 students chose to continue their education abroad and 36% of these students are attending Ivy League colleges.

Extra-curricular activities

Robert College has a rich history of extracurricular activities and sports, with more than 100 student activity clubs as of 2006. Robert College introduced basketball to the Ottoman Empire in 1907. The first Student Council in Ottoman Empire was also formed in 1908 in Robert College.

Student Council

Student Council is formed of a group of annually elected student governors and a faculty advisor. The elected body is proportional with class size. As well as class representatives, the president, the vice president, the secretary and the treasurer are elected after a period of campaigning. Campaigning takes a long time, in which all the candidates advertise for themselves in many creative ways. Student Council is responsible for facilitating communications between students, faculty and administration, as well as organizing social activities and fundraising for clubs. Student Council also organizes the largest high school festival, Fine Arts Festival, in Turkey.President of the Student Council heads the Honor Court and makes a speech during the opening, closing, graduation ceremonies, representing the student body.



  • Bosphorous Chronicle: The school's newspaper published monthly.
  • Record: The Yearbook.
  • Kingdom Robertea: The school's scientific journal.
  • RC Reviews: The literary journal published quarterly.
  • Kaleidoscope: The English literature magazine.
  • Hamsi (Anchovy): The online fun and technology magazine.
  • Northbridge: The technology magazine.


  • Martı (Seagull): Turkish literature journal.
  • Oda (Room): Turkish literature journal publishing poems, stories and photos submitted by students.
  • Tarih (History): The History Club's annual publication.


  • Polyglot: The literary magazine in French, Spanish, German, English and Turkish.


Music clubs

Robert College Orchestra is the second largest club in the school, after the Model United Nations club (MUN). Orchestra concerts, modern and classical, take place throughout the year and during the Homecoming. Though it has several sections in itself, the music groups below also exist independently:

Other clubs

  • Advanced Painting
  • Art and Drawing
  • Astronomy
  • Braille
  • Bowling
  • Camping
  • Computer Assistants
  • Computer Game Development Club
  • Computer Programming
  • Ceramics and Sculpture
  • Chess
  • Contemporary Events
  • Destination Imagination
  • Documentary
  • Drama
  • Ethical Values
  • European Youth Club (EYC)
  • Explorers
  • Film Production

  • First Lego League
  • Folklore
  • French Theater
  • Future Physicians
  • Bacteriology and Genetics
  • German Movie
  • History
  • Hope
  • Interact
  • International Cooking
  • Italian Language and Culture
  • Junior Achievement
  • Latin Dance
  • Math
  • Model Car Design
  • Model United Nations (MUN)
  • Outdoor Challenge
  • Peer Counselling

  • Peer Tutoring
  • Poetry
  • Philosophy
  • Photography
  • Playscript Writing
  • Psychology
  • Radio
  • RC Theater Company
  • Red Crescent
  • Russian
  • Theater Sports
  • Turkish Literature and Culture
  • Turkish Musical
  • Turkish Theater
  • Volunteers in Education
  • Winpeace
  • Young Business People
  • Young Reporters for the Environment

Conferences and festivals

Fine Arts Festival (FAF)

Fine Arts Festival is the largest secondary school festival in Turkey. It has been held annually since 1982 by the Robert College Student Council. Each year, more than 2000 people attend the festival, which is traditionally held in May.Fine Arts Festival is a big event in which many student groups can perform on stage. There are many art exhibitions and dance shows that take place in the festival. Student Council members visit many high schools in Istanbul and advertise for this great event. People from all the high schools come together in this festival to praise art. At the end of the festival, traditionally a very famous group performs on stage. This is a great achievement, given the limited budget of the Student Council. Most of the revenues used to fund this event are raised through food and ticket sales.

International Istanbul Youth Forum (IYF)

The International Istanbul Youth Forum is an annually held conference at Robert College. It is the first conference in Turkey that is recognized as a Regional EYP (European Youth Parliament) session. It is being organized every year since 2006 with participants from numerous European countries. Each year, more than 150 participants from all over the Europe gather at the RC campus. The conference is organized by the Robert College European Youth Club.

Ethics Forum

The Ethics Forum is the first to be established at high school level in Turkey. As the first Ethics Club in Turkey, Robert College Ethical Values Club organizes an ethics case study contest at national level among high school students, following their forum. The results are announced at the Ethics Conference near the end of the year. Both events attract more than twenty public and private schools from around Turkey.

Robert College International Model United Nations (RCIMUN)

The second annual Robert College International Model United Nations (RCIMUN) held in April 9-12, 2008 and it took place in the campus while the school was not in session due to the spring vacation(April 5-14,2008). This conference included the Security Council of UN and ECOSOC. There was about 350 students, of which about 40% came from international schools.

Istanbul Gençlik Forumu (IGF)

Istanbul Gençlik Forumu is a national conference where representatives from over 30 high schools from different regions come together to discuss issues regarding the future of Turkey. In 2008, the 5th IGF welcomed over 250 participants. Discussions about international affairs are held in Turkish and each committee is responsible for writing a resolution. Then, at the General Assembly, each resolution is discussed and voted on. It is also the National Selection Conference of EYP Turkey, which is also recognized by the international office of European Youth Parliament. The conference is held annually and is organized by the Robert College European Youth Club.

Turkish Theater Festival (TIFES)

Organized by the Robert College Theater Club, TIFES is one of the major theatrical events at high school level in Turkey. The festival takes place in Robert College campus during the first week of June. Numerous plays are put on stage during the week in Suna Kıraç Hall and famous actors, actresses and playwrights give talks on topics related to theatrical arts.


The 65 acre wooded campus overlooking Bosphorus on the European side of Istanbul is home to historic buildings as well as modern ones, centennial trees and a rich fauna, among which Bosphorus Beetle, an endemic species to this campus, could be counted.

Major buildings

  • Gould Hall: This building, the oldest educational building on the campus, is a gift from Helen Gould Shepard, daughter of the famous 19th century Wall Street financier Jay Gould. She donated US$150,000 for the construction, which began in 1911 and was completed in 1914. Today it houses classrooms, the main administrative offices, the library, Heritage Museum and cafeteria as well as Turkish Literature and Social Sciences Departments.

  • Woods Hall: Completed in 1914, the building was a partial gift from Mrs. Henry Woods, of Boston, who donated US$58,000, with Helen Gould supplying the remaining US$25,000 required. It was used as a Science Building until 1990, and today is home to the English Prep classrooms and offices, as well as a cafeteria.
  • Mitchell Hall: Originally home to the school kitchens and dining room, it was a gift from Miss Olivia E. Phelps Stokes, who donated US$100,000. A modest woman, she asked for the building to be named in memory of her friend, Sarah Lindlay Mitchell. Today, the building houses classrooms, the Math Department, the Sait Halman Computer Center, the audio-visual center and a photography studio. The top floor is used for examinations and minor conferences.
  • Sage Hall: A gift from Mrs. Margaret Olivia Sage, widow of Russell Sage, a famous 19th century financier and associate of Jay Gould, Sage Hall is one of the few buildings used for its building purpose. A philanthropist, she donated US$100,000 for the building, built as a dormitory. Today, the building houses the girls' dormitories, infirmary and art studios.
  • Bingham Hall: Originally built as a medical school building, financed by William Bingham in memory of his mother, Mary Payne Bingham, the building housed the junior high school section, from 1925 to 1992. Today, it is home to the boys' dormitories, as well as business and administrative offices.
  • Feyyaz Berker Hall: Feyyaz Berker Hall, which today houses the science labs and classrooms, as well as the Science Department, was completed in 1990, and named after its largest donor,leading Turkish businessman and Robert College Trustee Feyyaz Berker (Robert College Eng '46 alumnus). The Biology Museum, which has one of the rarest collections in Turkey, has been reopened in the top floor of the building.
  • Suna Kıraç Hall: A state-of-the-art theater building completed in 1990, which includes a large stage, make-up rooms, modern sound and lighting system and seatings for 512 people, was named after its largest donor Suna Kıraç (American College for Girls '60 alumnus), a leading Turkish businesswoman and Robert College Trustee.
  • Nejat Eczacıbaşı Hall: The modern school gymnasium was opened in 1990 and named after its largest donor, prominent Turkish bio-chemist and businessman Dr. Nejat Eczacıbaşı (Robert College '32 alumnus).


When founded in 1863, Robert College had four students. A sum of $2,120 had been allocated to the library, and Harvard University had donated 200 volumes for the opening of the library. During the 50's and 60's, the college had one of the largest collections in Turkey. (In 1957: 111,598 books and 214 periodicals; the American College for Girls Library 27,163 books and 108 periodicals, according to the Turkiye Kutuphaneleri Rehberi (Guide to Libraries in Turkey) published by the Turkish National Library in that year.) After the foundation of Boğaziçi University, the college donated the majority of its collections to the newly-founded university. Today, Robert College has the largest library collection among secondary schools in Turkey. The library houses more than 47,300 books, 190 periodical publications, and two web-based databases. It occupies an area of 700 square meters with a seating capacity of 90, and serves a total of 927 students, as well as all the employees and alumni of the school on second and third floors of Gould Hall.

Child Study Center

The Child Study Center on the Robert College campus has 40 students between 3-6 years of age, four bilingual teachers, and a director. The center is a natural observation environment for students who are taking Psychology and Child Psychology classes. According to the college's website, "the educational program at the center is designed to develop self-confidence, self-esteem, self-competence, independence, initiative , creativity, empathy, problem solving and thinking skills in children.

Other buildings and facilities

  • The Rodney B. Wagner Memorial Maze (The Legend of Maze)
  • The White House (Bubble)
  • Tennis courts
  • Faculty housing (Yalı and numerous houses dispersed on campus)
  • Rose Garden
  • Biology Pond
  • The Bridge and the Security
  • Yuva (Child Study Center)
  • Forum

Note: This section only includes the buildings in today's Robert College campus (formerly the campus of American College for Girls); the ones in the former boys campus of Robert College could be found in Boğaziçi University article.

Tuition and financial aid

Robert College tuition fees for the 2007-2008 academic year are:
Day Student Boarder (5 days) Boarder (7 days)
TRY 23.400 TRY 33.200 TRY 37.400
US$ 19.000 US$ 27.000 US$ 30.500
The tuition fees are adjusted each year according to the inflation rates in a limited range set by the Ministry of Education. Robert College has been the most expensive private school in Turkey over the years. It is still the most expensive educational institution surpassing the private universities. According to school data, 22% of the students receive financial aid and the allocated funds for financial aid amount to US$ 3.8 million for 2007-2008 academic year.

Notable alumni

Since the time of the Ottoman Empire, Robert College alumni have played a leading role in numerous fields - from the arts to government administration. In 1990, three alumni, Nejat Eczacıbaşı, Suna Kıraç and Feyyaz Berker have donated the necessary funds for the construction of the new buildings that are mentioned in the Buildings section. As the costs of the school cannot be met by the tuition fees alone, the Alumni Association organizes an annual giving campaign to cover the costs of the school. Bizimtepe, a cultural and recreational center next to the campus, is an affiliate of the Alumni Association and was founded to raise funds for the school. The Alumni Association publishes RC Quarterly, which reaches 8,000 Robert College alumni around the world by mail.

Notable faculty (former and current)

See also

References and notes

Books on Robert College

  • Ali Neyzi, Alma Mater and the Story of Robert College
  • Asya Orhon, Kolejlerin Koleji, Robert Kolej
  • Betty Tank, Pushing My Shadow
  • Caleb Frank Gates, Not To Me Only, Princeton, 1940.
  • Cyrus Hamlin, My Life and Times, Boston, 1893.
  • Cyrus Hamlin, Among the Turks
  • Eren Yanık, Akvaryum
  • George Washburn, Fifty Years in Constantinople and Recollections of Robert College, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1909.
  • Hester Donaldson Jenkins, An Educational Ambassador to the Middle East
  • John Freely, History of Robert College, Istanbul, YKY, 2000.
  • Lynn Scipio, My Thirty Years in Turkey, New Hampshire, Ringde, 1955.
  • Mary Mills Patrick, A Bosphorus Adventure, London, 1934.
  • Mary Mills Patrick, Under Five Sultans
  • May Fincancı, The Story of Robert College Old and New
  • Moris Farhi, Young Turk
  • Orhan Türker, Mega Revma'dan Arnavutköy'e, Istanbul, 2005
  • Stevens Marcia&Malcolm, Against the Devil's Current: Life & Times of C.H.
  • Talat S. Halman, Aklın Yolu Bindir, Istanbul, 2003.
  • Ugur Ersoy, 1950-55 Erguvan Renkli Yıllar, Istanbul, 2004.

External links

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