Fifty-two-year-old Albanian immigrant Gac Filipaj has worked as a janitor at Columbia University in Manhattan for half of his life. And in May 2012, he was part of Columbia’s graduating class as well. It took Filipaj 12 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree in classics, but his work was worth the effort.
“This is a man with great pride, whether he’s doing custodial work or academics,” declared Peter Awn, dean of Columbia’s School of General Studies. “He’s one individual who makes his own future.”
An extremely self-reliant man, Filipaj left his small home village in Yugoslavia to avoid being drafted into the army, where he knew ethnic Albanians like himself were viewed as enemies. In 1992, he moved to New York and stayed with an uncle, taking a job as a restaurant bellboy before becoming a janitor at Columbia. Now, he hopes to become a custodial supervisor, preferably at Columbia. Money, however, is not a primary object for Filipaj. “The richness is in me…not in my pockets,” he says.
Wisdom is as good as an inheritance. (Ecclesiastes 7:11)
Jesus, grant me the courage to accomplish our goals in life.