LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS –
The Turkish-American Association of San Antonio recently held its 21st anniversary dinner at the Kelly Field Club.
On Feb. 23 they honored their founder, Dr. Turgut Ozan, professor emeritus of Engineering at St. Mary's University, who established the organization in 1986.
"We arrived in San Antonio in 1960 and over the following decades there was a buildup of Turks in the local area. There were several Turkish military personnel at Lackland's language school, many Turks serving in various professions locally and also a number of spouses of American military members who had been stationed in Turkey," the professor said.
Over the years they tried to locate and stay in contact with as many people as possible and held informal gatherings.
In 1986 they formalized the local Turkish-American group with a purpose to enlighten the local population about Turkey and its diverse culture and history.
The organization is comprised of both Turkish and American members whose mission is to promote a better understanding and relations between the people of Turkey and America and to increase public knowledge and understanding of Turkish culture and history in the greater San Antonio area.
Last August, the TAASA was able to continue driving toward their goal by participating in Lackland's International Festival. During the festival, the TAASA served as the host nation.
While they have conducted several events at various venues, such as local schools and museums, through the years, their biggest event is the Texas Folklife Festival, which is held in June each year.
"We've been onboard with the Texas Folklife Fest for two decades, and that's our biggest opportunity every year to spread a little Turkish culture, cuisine and hospitality to a large group of locals and visitors," said Dave Shultz, the current president of TAASA.
TAASA was honored with the presence of Ambassador Atila Uzer, the consul general of Turkey of the Houston Turkish Consulate, as well as the consul of Turkey, Ali Findik, at the dinner.
"Their presence at this ceremony truly added the highest measure of prestige, distinction and formality to make this a first-class and momentous occasion which Professor Ozan genuinely deserved," added Mr. Shultz.
The organization is open to anyone who has an interest in Turkey.
"Many of our members are people who just visited or lived in Turkey for a short while and gained an appreciation for our country," Dr. Ozan said.
For those seeking further information regarding TAASA, visit their Web site or call Zuhal Rick, 37th Services Division Community Center at 542-4646.