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Distinguished U-M CEE alum Feyyaz Berker passes

Berker (MSC CE ’48) passed on August 22, 2017. He was a prolific entrepreneur and pioneer in the Turkish construction engineering industry.

Feyyaz Berker
Feyyaz Berker

Feyyaz Berker was born in Mersin, Turkey in 1925. After finishing his primary school education there, he went to American College in Tarsus, then on to Robert College, an independent private high school in Istanbul. He completed his secondary education at Robert College in 1942, then began studying construction engineering at Robert College Engineering School, graduating in 1946. At this point, Berker went to America to study civil engineering at the University of Michigan.

Berker earned his Master’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1948. He stayed in America to practice for a while, working for a construction engineering firm in California. He returned to Turkey in 1949.

“I tell youths in America, stay in America, study for a year, it will be an experience you will evaluate for life,” said Berker.

After completing his military service as a reserve officer in Ankara between 1949-1950, he started to work as construction supervisor in the construction of Esenboğa Airport. After the works in Esenboğa were completed and the construction site was closed, he was appointed as the head of the laboratory and research department in the center.

Following a construction boom, after Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Berker founded Feyyaz-Nihat Consultancy Company with his Robert College and University of Michigan classmate, Nihat Gökyiğit. (MSE CE ’48)  Berker and Gökyiğit had been friends since first grade.

Tefken Journal cover
Tefken Journal cover

The two men went on to form a sister company, Tekfen Construction Limited in 1957, adding construction services to their consulting activities. Tekfen continued to expand its pipeline construction operations, then branched into refinery construction. Tekfen also began producing light bulbs, garnering one third of Turkey’s light bulb market, to hedge against inconsistencies in the construction industry.

At present, Tekfen Holding Company is a reputable international contractor in Turkey, Eastern and Central Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Tekfen is one of the 225 largest contractors in the world, contracting more than one billion dollars a year.

A group of people sit around a large conference table
Feyyaz Berker at a meeting with President Gerald Ford

Feyyaz Berker and his associates handed over the management entirely, after the restructuring of Tekfen Holding in 2000. Berker continued to serve as Chairman of the Board of Tekfen Holding until his retirement in 2014.

Berker had an active role in the establishment of TÜSİAD, Turkey’s top industry and business association, and served as Chairman of the Board for nine years until 1980. TÜSİAD supports independent research and policy discussions on important social and economic issues in Turkey and abroad. In 1975, Berker met with US President Gerald Ford, both U-M alumni, about lifting an arms embargo to improve the external trade relations of Turkey and Cyprus.

A letter from Gerald Ford to Feyyaz Berker
A letter from Gerald Ford to Feyyaz Berker

In 2013, Feyyaz Berker and his UM classmate and longtime business associate, Nihat Gokyigit, were awarded the Alumni Medal Award from the College of Engineering. This honor is awarded to alumni that have achieved extraordinary success in their field. This is the highest honor awarded by the College of Engineering Alumni Board.

Fayyaz Berker passed on August 22, 2017 at the age of 92. His death caused great sadness throughout the Turkish business world.

Berker was buried in the Aşiyan Cemetery in Turkey followed by a memorial ceremony held at Tekfen Holding.

Alev Berker, Berker’s wife, said of him after his passing, “Feyyaz worked very hard all his life for his family, his country and his company Tekfen Holding. We, I as his wife, his two daughters, his grandson and granddaughter are very proud of him and love him dearly. We will miss him very much.”


Portrait of Mason Hinawi
Mason Hinawi

Marketing Communications Specialist
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering