Published May 14, 2021
What motivates a young, federal civil servant — an operations analyst in the headquarters of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — to make a gift consistently — every year — to UB’s annual fund?
It’s the knowledge that she’s helping to give a UB student the kind of experience that shaped her life from the first day she walked onto the UB campus.
Eileen Marutiak Yildirim, BA ’06, moved around during high school. She studied abroad for a year before starting college. She’d planned to go to Michigan State but at the last minute decided to stay in Western New York, so she scrambled to get a place at UB.
“I was assigned to an over-capacity dorm room,” she says, “a fourth in a triple, with the promise that this was temporary. But from Day One, it was home.”
The friendships that kindled around Marutiak Yildirim during her time at UB and in the residence halls are still her closest friendships today. One roommate from her freshman year lives around the corner from her in Washington, D.C.
Her years at UB were the longest she had ever lived in one place. She wove herself into UB life through intramural sports, as a resident adviser in the dorms and then as a community adviser in the on-campus apartments. She built a community for herself. She met her future husband, Eser Marutiak Yildirim, BA ’05.
“My years at UB were the best years of my life,” she says now. “They were by far the most formative years, and UB has bled into every facet of my adult life. I owe so much to UB. That’s the reason I give both my time and make my annual gift to UB, to be sure that kind of opportunity is available for others.” Her gifts support experiential learning programs in the College of Arts and Sciences.
After she graduated, Marutiak Yildirim stayed in Buffalo. “I knew I’d be perfectly happy to live in Buffalo for the rest of my life, my husband too, happily ever after.” Though she didn’t become involved with UB, it was always there, a familiar part of the landscape.
Then they thought they’d try someplace new — just for a few years — so they moved to Washington. That was seven years ago. Marutiak Yildirim hoped to work for the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and after a year, she landed her dream job. But what keeps her in D.C. isn’t just the opportunities or the big city life. It’s UB.
Their first weekend in the new city, Eileen and Eser drove to Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern in Herndon, Va., to attend a UB alumni event, where they figured they wouldn’t feel like total strangers. They walked into a Buffalo Bills watch party, a blast of UB and home.
“Coming down to D.C., I wanted to keep my ties to Buffalo, so the UB Alumni Association was a perfect fit,” Marutiak Yildirim says. She started attending alumni events in the area, and after becoming a familiar face was invited to join the D.C. network’s board. Their first summer in D.C., Eileen and Eser threw a “716” party in their apartment for an increasing circle of Buffalo transplant friends. Now it’s a big annual party drawing 60 or more to an outdoor venue.
Before COVID-19, Marutiak Yildirim says, the D.C. alumni network held in-person events about once a month — community service events, watch parties for UB football and basketball games, Bills games, even a Dyngus Day event, the popular Polish tradition in Buffalo that celebrates the end of Lent.
Today, her involvement with UB has expanded to membership on the board of directors of the UB Alumni Association, where she is chair of the membership committee.
And now the UB experience that was formative for Marutiak Yildirim as a student is part of her everyday life again.
“I have some connection with the UB every day. This is my community, my social network, this where I feel connected and I feel like I’m making a difference, so I enjoy this work immensely.”