Students working on computers at tables
Photo: Emily Paine
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The oak-and-walnut tables crafted by an engineering student are well used.
Going out on a Limb
by Emma Downey ’18, M’20
Small changes on Bucknell’s campus are easy to miss as students rush across the quad between classes. For Erim Yildirir ’18 a small change sparked a potent idea.

When Yildirir noticed some of the large trees on campus had been removed due to disease, he thought, “Why don’t we build stuff with this wood for the campus so you can say, ‘Oh, this table was built from a tree right by Harris!’ It is a form of sustainability.”

During his senior year, Yildirir pitched his idea to Patrick Mather, dean of engineering, who welcomed the project. As a civil-engineering major, Yildirir spent his time in the classrooms and study area of Dana Engineering. If not in Dana, he could be found 20 minutes away, in the workshop of woodworking artist John Sterling. Yildirir met Sterling at the annual Lewisburg Arts Festival his junior year and worked with Sterling building tables three times a week.

Yildirir wanted to create something with aesthetic appeal that could inspire students to stop procrastinating and “do what they don’t want to do, which is probably writing a report.” Using white oak from campus trees and walnut from a local mill, Yildirir created sleek, minimalist tables. They have been in Dana lobby since last spring, under two computers, piles of textbooks and student papers.

“ ‘Oh, this table was built from a tree right by Harris!’ It is a form of sustainability.”
Erim Yildirir ’18
Mather says the tables are tangible representations of how students can connect their academic studies to their passions.

“The tables are simply beautiful, and our students seem to really like their elegant design,” Mather says. “It makes me wonder what else our students might design and leave behind as their legacy.”

Now an inspector at a New York building-design firm, Yildirir says, “I get to use my degree in a practical way, and the lifestyle really works for me.”

A native of Turkey’s northern coast, Yildirir is still thinking of ways to integrate his hobby with sustainability. He hopes to someday start a furniture business using wood from olive orchards, part of Turkey’s massive olive industry. Yildirir says the trees are otherwise discarded.

“I love the trees; I love the geography that produces them,” Yildirir says. “It’s sad for me to see the trees destroyed just for the sake of industrialization, and I’d like to help the farmers get more money.”