September 27, 2011 — Kerem Efe Atalay, a third-year foreign affairs and history major in the University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences, has been selected by the Turkish Coalition of America as the first TCA Advance-Robert C. Byrd Memorial Scholar.
Atalay, of Centreville, will receive a $5,000, annually renewable scholarship until he graduates, and is expected to pursue a public service career and advance U.S.-Turkey relations.
The Byrd Scholarship program was launched in 2011 with the support of the late West Virginia senator's family to support Turkish-American students from the 13 states of the Appalachian region. The scholarship reflects Byrd's commitment to building a strong U.S.-Turkey relationship, including the Appalachian-Turkish Trade Project, an initiative to promote mutually beneficial trade and investment programs between the 13 Appalachian states and Turkey.
"It is with enormous gratitude that I accept my selection by the Turkish Coalition of America as the first Robert C. Byrd Memorial Scholar," Atalay said. "The work performed by Sen. Byrd during his incredible tenure as the longest-serving senator in United States history serves, during this period of nearly unprecedentedly low confidence in the American Congress, as a reminder of what it means to be a representative of the people.
"The positive effects of his efforts, both for his constituents in West Virginia and for the American-Turkish relationship more broadly, remain apparent to this day. It is with his legacy in mind that I accept this scholarship and the privileges and responsibilities attached to it."
Atalay, who was born in Los Angeles in 1991 to Turkish parents, transferred to U.Va. in 2010 as a second-year student. He is a member of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and has been on the dean's list. Atalay has also interned at the American Turkish Council, a business association that promotes strengthening the U.S.-Turkey relationship.
Atalay plans to attend graduate school.