Columbia Janitor Becomes Columbia Graduate

This Sunday Gac Filipaj, 52, will earn a B.A. in Classics–with department honors–from Columbia University. Filipaj, who left Yugoslavia 20 years ago, has worked as janitor at Columbia since 1993.

According to an article by Tracy Connor in the New York Daily News:

Leaving behind his parents and siblings in his war-torn homeland, Filipaj fled to the U.S. in 1992, speaking barely a word of English. A language tutor suggested he try to get a job at Columbia so he could take tuition-free courses, and he scored a cleaning gig.

He spent several years taking English proficiency classes, then enrolled in the School of General Studies in 2000. The bachelor would take classes in the morning, work from 2:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., and then trek home to the Bronx to study.

He will take two days off after graduation.

Next week he will return to work as a custodian. “If I can get a job better than cleaning, good,” Filipaj apparently told Connor. “If not, there is nothing shameful about that work.”

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer