Message from the President

By reaching out to women in Turkey who desire a university education but have limited financial means, we are transforming the lives of scores of young women.

With your help we can do more, much more. Our means are modest, but our vision is limitless. Please join us in helping women earn university degrees so they can become financially and intellectually independent and productive citizens of the world.

The Board and our supportive members, including many American friends, have experienced the life-changing benefits of a university education. We aim to promote the same attainment for women in Turkey. In that vein, during the last three decades we have touched the lives of over 130 Turkish college students by awarding scholarships to them for three years or more.

We eagerly await your suggestions and participation to improve our mission. If you are already a donor, thank you. If not, please join us today.

Best wishes.

Ayhan A. Lash, President

Our founding members (left to right): Leyla Harfoush, Belma Selcukoglu, Ayhan Lash, Semra Precott

This group of current and former TAWSF Board members includes four TAWSF Presidents

Standing members (left to right): Hande Ozdinler, Terry Becker; Sitting members (left to right): Sel Yackley, Ayhan Lash, Semra Prescott


Ayhan Lash

Ayhan A Lash was born and raised in Izmir, Turkey and came to the U.S. on an AID scholarship. She holds a BSN, MSN (Wayne State University) and a PhD (University of Chicago). She has worked as a nursing instructor at Admiral Bristol School of Nursing in Istanbul and as a staff nurse at Northwestern and Loyola Universities. She also held faculty positions at the University of Illinois (1970-1977) and Northern Illinois University (1990-2012). During her academic career Ayhan published over fifty scientific papers and presented her research at numerous national and international conferences. Ayhan also has been an officer in several nursing organizations and has served on the referee board of numerous professional journals.

Secretary, Public Relations Director

Sel Erder Yackley

Sel Erder Yackley has been a board member since 2007, she serves as secretary and public relations director.  She was a founding member of TACA in 1965 and received the Meritorious Service Award from ATAA in 2002. Sel is an award-winning journalist who came to the United States to further her education.  After receiving her master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, she worked for United Press International and the Chicago Tribune, where she won several national writing prizes. Her memories “Never Regret the Pain: Loving and Losing a Bipolar Spouse,” received the book of the year award by the Illinois Woman’s Press Association in 2007.  She has authored or edited several other books.  Having worked in the travel industry, she organizes tours to Europe, South America, the Middle East and Africa.


Terry Becker

Terry Becker has served on the Board of TAWSF since 2013, most of that time as Treasurer. She has an MA in Mathematics from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and an MBA from the University of Chicago.  In addition to her years of work experience in the business world, she has volunteered as Treasurer for several small non-profit organizations.  She is a strong believer in the power of education to improve people’s lives. Terry has two grown daughters.

Student Affairs

Semra Prescott

Semra Prescott is a multi-lingual scholar who has lived in Germany and Mexico.  She has degrees in geology from universities in Ankara and Tubingen, Germany. She also has a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University that resulted in the publishing of a book titled “Hispano -Turkish Literary, Cultural, and Political Relations: (1096 -1499)” in English and Turkish. Semra has been a member of TAWSF since 1989 and has served as Director of Student Affairs for the last 25 years. She communicates with Turkish professors and university officials as well as the students she recommends for Board approval.   She is active in several Turkish and International organizations and is a Museum Docent at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago. Is it obvious why she is a believer in education for young Turkish women.

Members at Large

Pembe Hande Özdinler, Ph.D

Pembe Hande Özdinler, Ph.D  received training and education in the fields of molecular biology, genetics, biotechnology, cell biology, anatomy, neuroscience and neurology.  She is currently a faculty member at the Department of Neurology, Northwestern University, directing a research center in the field of motor neuron biology and ALS disease. She is the recipient of Harvard NeuroDiscovery, NUCATS Translational Innovation Grants. She has been invited to speak at Nobel Forum in Oslo and recently was named one of the most influential Turkish American Women in the US by Turk of America.  Dr. Özdinler is a mother, a writer, a photographer, an International Press member, and an adamant supporter of women’s contribution to modern society.

Emel Singer (retired, 2023)

Emel Singer is the retired (previous) owner and President/CEO of Banner Personnel Service, Inc., providing staffing solutions to Chicago area businesses since 1970. She was born in Gaziantep, Turkey and came to the United States as a high school foreign exchange student and later graduated from Bradley University in Peoria where she served two terms on their Board of Trustees, as well as the Bradley University Council and Parents’ Board. Emel was inducted into UIC’s Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame in 1993 and received recognition as one of “100 Women Making a Difference” in Today’s Chicago Woman publication in 1997.  Her biography was featured in Turk of America Magazine’s “Zirvedeki Kadınlar” issue dated 02.15.2004 titled “25th Largest Woman-Owned Company in Chicago”.

Dr. Hayat Önyüksel

Dr. Hayat Önyüksel is Emerita Professor of Pharmaceutics and Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She received her B.S. degree in Pharmacy from Ankara University, Turkey, and PhD degree from London University, England, and post-doctoral training at the University of Michigan USA. She started her academic career at Ankara University, and continued at UIC until she retired in 2020. Dr. Önyüksel's research interest is in the area of targeted drug delivery. She uses lipid-based nano-carriers to develop nanomedicines with improved drug solubility, stability, and safety. Applying her innovative targeted approach she has prepared several anti-cancer, peptide, and siRNA nanomedicines and shown on animal models successful treatments of cancer, diabetes, fibrosis, and inflammatory diseases. She has received several prestigious awards including the New Investigator Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (1989), the UIC Inventor of the Year 2003 Award, the UIC Woman of the Year 2003 Award, the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientist Fellow (2006), the UIC Graduate Mentoring Award (2008), UIC University Scholar (2008), AAPS Lipid-Based Drug Delivery Outstanding Researcher Award (2008), the most prestigious scientific award of Turkish Republic TUBITAK Science Award (2014), American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) Fellow (2019). Her research was extensively supported by federal (NIH, DOD), state (IDPH), and industrial (Novartis, Pfizer) funds. She is married to Dr. Ibrahim Önyüksel and a mother of a son, Cem Önyüksel.

Fusun A Borelli

Fusun A. Borelli was raised in Ankara and is a graduate of TED Ankara Koleji. She was assigned to work in the Turkish Consulate in Chicago by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1978. Her educational background is in English Literature and Language from Ankara University (BA) and Guidance and Counseling from Hacettepe University (MA). She has been an active member of TACA and has done numerous presentations and orientations to promote Turkish life and culture in the USA. She is also a Museum Docent at the Chicago History Museum. As a mother of two daughters, she is a strong advocate of women's rights and education.

January 22, 2017

Turkish Film Festival Funds Scholarships

John Yackley, Chair of the Turkish Film Festival, presented TAWSF president Dr. Ayhan Lash with a check that will provide a three-year scholarship for at least one Turkish university student. The film festival committee included John Yackley, Nilay Duygulu, Dr. Esra Tasdelen, and Yesim Ilkin. Our thanks to these faithful supporters. TAWSF is grateful for all tax-deductible contributions.


A tribute: Özgecan Aslan

by Zeynep Karataş


We would love to hear from you.

Please contact our President:
Ayhan Lash
990 N Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60611

+1 (630) 421-0648

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


It is more urgent than ever before for us to help educate young Turkish women so that they can become intelligent and self-reliant global citizens.

Thanks to your continued support during nearly three decades, TAWSF has granted over 540 scholarships to young, ambitious students