VICKSBURG, Miss. (November 15, 2019) -- In a packed conference room on a Friday morning, Dr. Zeki Demirbilek, a research hydraulics engineer for the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory, bid farewell to his colleagues and friends at a retirement ceremony held in his honor, November 15, 2019.
The event began with James “Jim” Gutshall, chief of the Harbors, Entrances and Structures Branch, recognizing Demirbilek’s professional accomplishments by presenting him with a Meritorious Civilian Service Medal and was followed by a presentation of cards and a gift.
After a slide show of photos spanning Demirbilek’s 30-year career with the organization, Gutshall summed up what everyone was thinking. “It has been an honor to work with you,” he said. “We will sincerely miss you.”
Before coming to what was then known as the Waterways Experiment Station 30 years ago, Demirbilek had a diverse and extensive history, from playing professional soccer for Manchester United in England, until a career-ending injury; to graduating from the Turkish Naval Academy and serving with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; to owning his own consulting firms. As such, he not only brought a wealth of knowledge and expertise to WES/ERDC, but also a unique and distinct perspective.
However, even with all his professional accolades, many of colleagues are quick to point out that it is his role as a teacher and mentor that they will miss the most.
Bill Seabergh, a former researcher with CHL, described how Demirbilek would give his colleagues a shiny penny for accomplishing good works or when he thought they had done a good job. “I’m not sure how this came about,” said Seabergh. “But people proudly put these on their doors with scotch tape. If you got a shiny penny, you did something good.”
Demirbilek was then presented with his own giant shiny penny. “That’s the biggest shiny penny I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.
“Personally, I am really appreciative of Zeki as a great mentor and teacher,” said Dr. Mike Briggs, a former researcher at CHL. Briggs went on to describe how Demirbilek volunteered to help him with his doctorate degree and even taught a course in wave dynamics at CHL.
“I’m really humbled by the kind words and appreciation in recognition of my service to ERDC and the Nation,” said Demirbilek. “I want to extend my appreciation to everyone from the bottom of my heart.”
“My career has been fantastic no question about it,” he said. “But I didn’t accomplish all of these innovative things by myself. It’s a team effort. Keep up the good work.”