Akgun Temizer was born in Konya, Turkey, and grew up in the capital city of Ankara. He was an only child born into a middle income family. His parents were hard working and made do with what they had. Despite his not so glamorous upbringing, Akgun feels lucky to have grown up in Ankara.
“I’m a product of public education,” he says, having attended primary school, middle school, high school, and college all free of charge, courtesy of the Turkish government. “It was the best free education you could get,” he adds.
When he graduated from high school, Akgun went on to attend the University of Ankara, where he studied both Finance and Political Science. After graduation, he applied for a job with the Turkish State Department in Ankara. He spent seven years there before he was transferred to the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C. to work as an Assistant Economic Counselor. Originally intended as a two-year assignment, and unknown to him at the time, this position would remove Akgun from Turkey for good.
While working at the Embassy, a military takeover of the Turkish government back home caused Akgun to lose his job. “I had a choice to go back and face uncertainty and no job prospects,” he says. “Or I could stay here and face uncertainty and no job prospects.” He chose the latter.
After losing his position at the Embassy, Akgun applied for a position at a construction company in Washington, D.C. He worked his way up from the bottom, and at the end of his nine years there, he was in a supervisory position.
From there, Akgun saw a listing for a job opening at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and decided to give it a shot. In 1971, he landed the job. “Would you believe my construction job led me to the job at IMF,” he says with a laugh.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., IMF hires employees from all over the world as they work with 180 member countries. Having become a U.S. citizen in 1969, Akgun joined IMF as an American member of the staff. He worked in the treasury department and oversaw all kinds of fiscal transactions between IMF and its member countries.
During his time at IMF, Akgun only occasionally traveled for work. However, he does remember a time in 1976 when IMF held its annual meeting in Manila, Philippines. He recalls this trip as especially memorable because he was introduced to Imelda Marcos, the Philippines’ First Lady at the time, as well as English ballerina Margot Fonteyn, Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, and American pianist Van Cliburn.
While IMF only paid for Akgun’s travel for the meeting, he decided to extend the trip. “They paid for the travel to and from Manila, but I paid for the travel in between,” he says. Before returning to the U.S., Akgun explored Japan, Thailand, Egypt, and Nepal — where he saw Mount Everest “from the sky,” in the comfort of a private airplane.
In 1987, Akgun retired from his post at IMF. At that point, having spent 48 years in the Washington, D.C. area, Akgun believed that he would live out his retirement in Arlington, Virginia. It wasn’t until his cousin invited him to come visit Sarasota that this idea changed. “Sarasota is a great city,” he says. “It has a small city feeling with big city advantages — like the opera, theater, and symphony.” Akgun moved to Sarasota in 2003, and into Plymouth Harbor in 2012.
After relocating here, it didn’t take him long to get involved in the community. Akgun enjoys attending musical performances at our local theaters, particularly opera and classical music, and in recent months, he’s become largely involved with New College of Florida.
In fact, this past summer, Akgun established a $1.3 million scholarship program for students from his Ankara high school to attend New College. Akgun says his desire to do this stems from his days in Turkey’s public education system. “I felt indebted to Turkey and wanted a way to pay back my mother country,” he says. Continually impressed by its reputation and consistently high rankings, Akgun says New College was the obvious choice for him.
“Before I moved to Plymouth Harbor, I had named New College in my will, but after I moved in, I realized I wanted them to see that money now,” he says. “Spending money on education is an investment for the future.”
Because New College can use only the income derived from the scholarship fund, the number of students will change year by year. This September, the first of these students arrived at New College, ready to begin his studies for the next four years. Akgun has met with this student several times, and just recently enjoyed Sunday brunch with him and his cousin at Plymouth Harbor. Akgun proudly shares that he shows great promise, and already has plans to earn his advanced degree at MIT.
In addition to his generous spirit, Akgun is a smart, caring individual, whose regard for hard work, perseverance, and education is contagious.