Hamdi Bilsel Alisbah

December 22, 1937 - July 2, 2017
Born in Istanbul, Turkey
Resided in Hilton Head Island, SC


ALISBAH - Hamdi Bilsel, loving husband and father and devoted grandfather passed out of this world on July 2, 2017. He is survived by his beloved wife of over 52 years, Lorenda (Lorie) White Alisbah and his 4 children, Kathryn, Cemil (Jamie), Tara and Nimet (Nimi) and his 5 grandchildren: Eden, Patrick, Lindsay, Brendan and JD. Born in Istanbul on December 22, 1937, he spent the first 15 years of his life in Istanbul, Ankara and Switzerland with his parents, Orhan and Nimet.

At the age of 15, he arrived in Princeton, NJ, with Turkish and German fluency, but not English. Mistakes in translation resulted in him skipping 1.5 years of high school in a new language and still graduating first in his class at Princeton High. He also began playing chess with Dr. Albert Einstein in that first year, and wearing American blue jeans.

He went on to graduate first in his class from University of Pennsylvania, followed by Princeton University for Graduate and PhD studies. He finished all the course work for his PhD but never finished his dissertation because the World Bank recruiters drafted him into the first round of the Young Professionals Program which he accepted.

After 30 years at the World Bank, working with Indira Ghandi in India and the leaders of various West African nations and hundreds of colleagues who praised him for his fairness and ethics and kindness, he was asked to be V.P. of personnel. He left all situations, systems, people and institutions better than he found them, and so humbly that you would never know what he was up to. He valued hard work, fairness, integrity and honesty in others and exemplified those traits.

After retiring from the World Bank in 1993 he moved to Turkey with his wife and became the Director of the Central Bank and later the chief economic advisor to then Prime Minister Tansu Ciller. He later taught at Bilkent University in Ankara and created a math scholarship there in the name of his father. This is but one of the endless gifts, both tangible and intangible, that he leaves behind, in the people he met and worked with and for, in his children and grandchildren and friends and community, in his wife of over half a century and in the countless countries he inhabited and served. In the last years, he was a frequently published editorial writer to the Washington Post, New York Times and Island Packet, and was so humble and quiet that you would only find these things out if you happened to read those papers on a certain morning on a certain day.

His children honor him for his tireless support, concern, care-taking and wonderfully dry sense of humor. His wife honors him for the endless and unconditional love he felt for her and the loving care he took of her and for his constant companionship.

His life was a huge contribution to all who were lucky enough to know him and many who didn’t, and he leaves this physical world richer, kinder, more honest and more beautiful than he found it, and for this we should all be grateful.

His family plans to celebrate his life in the Washington D.C. area in November. Donations may be made to support the Orhan Alisbah scholarship fund at Bilkent University or Lorie’s brother’s fundraising efforts for the Burma Children Medical Fund.