After years of mopping Columbia University’s floors, Gac Filipaj took a day off to attend the graduation ceremony where he received his bachelor’s degree in classics with honors.
Filipaj, a 52-year-old ethnic Albanian has graduated from Columbia University after 12 long years of balancing his studies with his full time-job as a janitor.
Since he was an employee at the university, his classes were for free. He earned $22 an hour and sent this money to his family in Montenegro. He studied what he loved most, and amongst his classes his favorite was the Roman philosopher and statesman Seneca.
“I love Seneca’s letters because they’re written in the spirit in which I was educated in my family — not to look for fame and fortune, but to have a simple, honest, honorable life,” he said.
Filipaj invested a lot of hard work into earning this degree. He would pull all-nighters studying for exams in his Bronx apartment after his 2.30-11pm shifts, go to class in the morning and then start his next shift.
The hard-worker and studious janitor hopes to work as a supervisor of custodians at Columbia.