Last Lectures: Prof. Ülker Gökberk [German, 1986]

We salute retiring (and not-so-retiring) professors.

By Alex Blum ’14 | September 1, 2013

The full weight of her retirement still hasn’t sunk in. “I just can’t imagine yet that I will not have the students to interact with in the fall,” says Ülker Gökberk.

Students formed the central pillar of her time at Reed. Gökberk has a remarkable memory for them; each of her anecdotes comes with a postscript of what her former students are doing now.

Former students recall her passion for the subject and her belief that they could always push themselves further. “Ülker had the academic depth that made students take her seriously, but she also had a warmth and welcoming demeanor that made it much easier to knock on her door and reveal doubts I was having about my thesis project,” recalls Christopher Fast ’90.

Max Weissberg ’04 remembers Gökberk’s persistence: “She really drew me back to Thomas Mann, to areas I did not understand and things I even feared. I once read the beginning of Doktor Faustus, got angry at a few passages in the middle, and threw it down. But Ülker really gave me the depth to understand someone who would become my favorite author.”

Gökberk earned her BA and MA from the University of Istanbul and her PhD from the University of Washington. She was unique in the German department, not just because she was the youngest professor and the only woman, but also because her interests roamed beyond the standard German canon to include Turkish-German literature, of which she has been a leading scholar. “She was one of the first people at Reed who had a concrete vision of how multiculturalism could be taught and practiced,” says Prof. Katja Garloff [German 1997–].

In retirement, she plans to stay involved with the German department and will teach a course in Reed’s Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program this fall.  

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