Associate professor in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences remembered as an outstanding teacher and a humble scholar.
Ozgur Ekmekci, the son of two academics, long dreamed of becoming a college professor, his colleagues say.
After moving to the United States from Turkey and earning an Ed.D. at the George Washington University in 2005, he finally fulfilled that wish.
Dr. Ekmekci joined the School of Medicine and Health Sciences faculty in 2007 as an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Research and Leadership. He was promoted to associate professor in 2013 and served as the department’s interim chair for the past two years. He earned the university’s Bender Teaching Award in 2011, a testament to his students’ admiration for their professor.
Dr. Ekmekci died Sept. 19. However, his love of teaching lives on in the memories of his students and colleagues. Academia was his passion, despite a long and successful career as an engineer.
“After every course he would write me a thank you note for ‘allowing him the privilege of teaching,’” said Ellen Goldman, the assistant dean for faculty and curriculum development in medical education. “He brought energy, enthusiasm and new understanding to the relatively dry topic of the assessment of learning."
Upon hearing the news of his death, his former graduate students wrote to faculty members, describing Dr. Ekmekci as “warm,” “humble” and “incredibly smart.”
Dr. Ekmekci was also program director for the Health Care Quality Master’s Program from 2007 to 2013. In addition to his teaching, he was a member of the Faculty Senate Research Committee, multiple faculty search committees, a judge on the University Hearing Board and a founding steering committee member on the GW Academy of Distinguished Teachers.
He is remembered, not only for his passion inside of the classroom, but also his humility and polite demeanor outside of it.
Senior Associate Dean for Health Sciences Joe Bocchino described Dr. Ekmekci as a dignified, “true gentleman,” who would never pass through a door without letting someone go before him. He was a logical and mathematical thinker, Dr. Bocchino said, and yet, he had a deep sensitivity and empathy for others’ troubles.
“He never had a frown on his face. He didn’t know how to not be nice,” Dr. Bocchino said. “Even when he was angry, I would catch myself laughing, because the words he would choose, even then, were still so polite.”
Dr. Goldman met Dr. Ekmekci during the summer of 2002, when they sat next to each other on the first day of their Executive Leadership Program, a doctoral program in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development. Both apprehensive about returning to school late in their careers, Dr. Ekmekci suggested the two “make a pact” to “take care of each other” throughout the program.
“That embodies the Ozgur I knew. He was always taking care of people in a positive way and pushing people to be their very, very best,” Dr. Goldman said. “This was Ozgur's unique combination: a brilliant scholar and gentlemen who conveyed instantaneous warmth and had the ability for helping others see and develop their full potential. He will be sorely missed.”
Dr. Ekmekci is survived by his wife and two children.