In September 1993 I entered the Department of Turkish Studies at the University of Cyprus as an undergraduate student. I did not know what to expect. The Department and degree programme were at their infancy-I was in the second-ever cohort to enter.
I, alongside another 20-odd hopefuls, was greeted by a charming, tall, white-haired gentleman whose wide smile, sparkling blue eyes and warm demeanour captured me immediately. He was Prof. György Hazai, a globally prominent figure in the world of Turkish Studies who was at the time Head of Department. Prof. Hazai was one of those unforgettable academics, who left an indelible mark on my own career, values and attitude in my own work. You see, despite the fact that we was a truly renowned, world-class scholar in his field, editor of the prestigious Archivum Ottomanicum among other things, his attitude towards his students was nothing other than collegial, supportive, encouraging and open. He addressed all of us as ‘dear colleagues’, building the Department on the basis that we were all equally invested in the scholarship of our field, we all had a voice and a share in proceedings, from the learning arena to departmental policy matters. You can imagine what an impact this approach had on 18-20 year olds who thought that university was something like high school. Hazai transgressed the boundary of power and authority inherent in every teaching situation, which unfortunately most of his peers still adhere to. You see, many academics can boast a rich CV, a successful career with groundbreaking research. But how many of them can genuinely say that they were an inspiration to their students, a positive force which not only achieved much, but enabled others to follow? Hazai was exactly that.
I was able to benefit from his wealth of knowledge and the vast horizons he was able to open up for his students and peers. Alongside a couple of others, his role was hugely important at a formative time for me.
Hazai was always a friend, a good colleague and a supportive teacher, no matter how many years had passed, no matter how many other students he taught. When I found out of his passing I was at first saddened at the loss of a warm and thoughtful person I once knew, a knowledgeable scholar of the kind which is becoming increasingly extinct. Then I remembered the good times, and felt genuinely privileged and fortunate that our paths crossed. I will never forget him.
Nur içinde yat, dear colleague. I hope you are having some interesting conversations with Lajos Fekete and the other luminaries up there.