The history of Atatürk University is a story of the realization of one of the most significant projects of the Turkish Republic. In his opening speech for the legislative year at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on November. 1, 1937, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Turkish Republic, stressed the need to found abig university in the eastern Anatolia region of Turkey, ordering the required initiatives to be taken to this end.
After twelve-year cessation of the works following Atatürk’s death, then-third President Celal Bayar reawakened the issue in his inaugural speech to the parliament on November. 1, 1950. Upon his warning, the second Menderes government included the issue in its schedule. The office of the Universities of the Ministry of Education sent university rectorships a note numbered XIV/5366, dated 11. 6.1951, asking them to set up a science commission to found a higher educationand culture centre. Thereupon, after the issue was discussed in the inter-universityboard, a science commission of 15 members was set up, every five of them was selected by the senates of the existing three universities of the time. The commission, headed by the Minister of Education Tevfik İleri, held its firstmeeting in Ankara, on July. 7, 1951. A decision was taken by the commission togo on an investigative tour in eastern provinces. Accompanied by the President Bayar, the tour started.
While the commission was holding examinations in the provinces of Van, Elazığ and Diyarbakır, people of Erzurum were closely following the developments. It was not clear whether the commission would come to Erzurum. Therefore, the governor of Erzurum Cemal Göktan sent a telegraph to the President Bayar, inviting them to Erzurum incase they would return to Ankara without visiting Erzurum. The next day, on theother end of the phone was Bayar’s first-aide Nurettin Alpkartal. He told thegood news that Bayar was so pleased and happy with the telegraph, adding that Bayar wouldn’t be able to come, but would send the commission to Erzurum. Thiswas an important development. The next day, the commission was welcomed by the governor Göktan, the Army Commander Nurettin Baransel, the Corps Commander Osman Günay, general council members of the province of Erzurum together with other military high officials, mayor of the province and his aides, educators, departmental managers and the notables of the province.
After travelling the province, the commission came together at the Municipality hall. The meetingwas headed by the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education Reşat Tardu. A history teacher told about the history of the city; an official about the population of the city together with the counties and villages according to the 1950 census data; a staff commander about the importance of the city in termsof national defence. The next day, the commission was in the head quarters tovisit the Army Commander. The Commander Baransel received the commission in the Office of Operation and told about the benefits of founding a university in thecity, making explanations on the map.