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Gac Filipaj gets his degree from Columbia after 20 years
May 9, 2012 4:38 PM   Subscribe

Filipaj worked as a custodian for 20 years to finance learning English, then Latin and Greek. He says he'll keep working at Columbia while continuing to study, rather than looking to move to a more lucrative job immediately.
posted by BibiRose (25 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is inspiring. Classics is a great, if tough, discipline: good for this guy for keeping it up. Funnily enough, with 20 years' experience regularly reading Latin and Greek, he's likely better ready for grad school than people who did it in 4.

What a great story.
posted by gauche at 4:43 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Good Fil Hunting.
posted by item at 4:59 PM on May 9, 2012


What kind of jobs can you get with a classics degree that are more lucrative then a union janitor at a university with 20 years seniority?

At the university I went too, the janitors all had health insurance, retirement plans and guaranteed annual raises. And the pay wasn't too shabby either.

Now graduate teaching assistants? Lecturers? I think someone working for 20 years as a janitor would make more and definitely have much better job security. If you take a lecturer position - you have no security at all, since the section you're teaching might not even get scheduled again next year.
posted by delmoi at 5:07 PM on May 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


That is a great story, and I hope he goes on and gets to teach; I suspect his students would be very lucky.
posted by languagehat at 5:08 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


O Fortuna
velut luna
statu variabilis
semper crescis
aut decrescis;
vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat
et tunc curat
ludo mentis aciem,
egestatem,
potestatem
dissolvit ut glaciem.
posted by elpapacito at 5:27 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Since he works at Columbia, and takes classes there, I'm guessing his education is very very inexpensive. I mean, if you factor the cost of an undergrad degree and then a Masters at Columbia into his salary, I'd say that his current position is already very lucrative.

A very smart way to pay for your degree. And he didn't even have to cram it all in to a few years...Classics is one of those things you study for the love of it, why not stretch it out? I like this guy.
posted by newg at 5:31 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I will be marching on Wednesday too - I will have to look out for Filpaj. When I did my undergrad at Brown 20 years ago there was a security guard, Phil, who was getting his degree. He worked in the computer building, where I logged a great deal of time for work, school and leisure and Phil had a little office there where he used to study and we could chat a bit.
posted by shothotbot at 5:37 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Quomodo sicut poma?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:37 PM on May 9, 2012


As the story says, his tuition was free. He's doing better than all those food-stamp PhDs recently in the news. But the whole idea of having a day job while pursuing your real interests seems to be anathema to a large number of people.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:42 PM on May 9, 2012


I hope he quits soon because I'm considering a move into the sanitation field and Columbia sounds like the type of environment where I could really excel.
posted by PJLandis at 5:50 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I did my undergrad at Brown 20 years ago there was a security guard, Phil, who was getting his degree. He worked in the computer building, where I logged a great deal of time for work, school and leisure and Phil had a little office there where he used to study and we could chat a bit.

I was at Brown about the same time. I think I remember that guy too.
posted by jonp72 at 7:41 PM on May 9, 2012


I did a degree in a similar field and this was one of the more touching stories I've ever read about higher education. He sounds like a stand-up guy with an excellent study ethic, with a message about being proud of your work that I suspect many of those marching could stand to think about. Classics is the better for having him as an alumnus of the field.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:18 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I did my undergrad at Brown 20 years ago there was a security guard, Phil, who was getting his degree.

Good Phil Hunting.
posted by item at 8:18 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a Classics major at Columbia. I've had a few classes with Gac. He's an awesome guy, and I'm pretty honored to be graduating with him. Its great to see him recognized like this.
posted by Oxydude at 8:22 PM on May 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


What a fantastic story!
posted by dejah420 at 9:02 PM on May 9, 2012


Awesome!
posted by dg at 10:18 PM on May 9, 2012


Truly a fantastic story. I can only imagine how proud his loved ones are of his accomplishments.

My dad emigrated from Iraq to Canada thirty years ago. He only had a couple of hundred dollars in his pocket but he was able to work hard in order to provide us (his family) with many of the things that we needed and wanted. He ensured that we all got an education because his family consisted of a lot of siblings that only had a grade 8 level education and at the time didn't believe in the need of furthering education even though my dad wanted to attend post secondary school once coming to Canada. His older brother told him that he had to work, couldn't go to school, and laughed at my dad for wanting to go to school. So, my dad's dream was to ensure that the four of us kids went to college or university.

My dad will be turning 63 this July and I'm only 21 years old right now. But, I hope that one day I can give him the gift that he gave me-the gift of education. He has always been so incredibly supportive of me both emotionally and always offering to lend a hand financially. He has worked so hard throughout his life as a store owner, factory worker, and now as a cab driver. And, I know that he is proud of me because I'll be completing my degree. But, I am so incredibly proud of him. He's an intelligent man and is truly successful in my eyes because he went from nothing to creating something for himself and many others such as several extended family members.

My dad doesn't use the internet often, so he won't be reading this message. But, I can't wait to tell him just how thankful I am for everything that he's done.

Thanks for sharing the article.
posted by livinglearning at 11:08 PM on May 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


What? No snark? This is incredible!
posted by meows at 2:54 AM on May 10, 2012


I don't think we need someone to guard us from this custodian.
posted by ersatz at 3:08 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Truly a fantastic story. I can only imagine how proud his loved ones are of his accomplishments.

Sicily was a land mostly inhabited of peasant totally illiterate farmers not so many years ago, 60-100 maybe. The parents and relatives were incredibly overjoyed when one of their children managed to obtain a position as *school teacher* at high school, imagine at any university. Attending college was so rare an opportuntiy that anyone with a college degree was seen as a "doctor", a real erudite, rara avis; mothers went around telling people beaming with joy "ah, my son has a college degree!" as if they made it to the Presidency of a country themselves.
posted by elpapacito at 5:55 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just hope some rich Columbia alum reads this and offers to fund this guy's Masters and/or PhD with tuition and a stipend.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:03 AM on May 10, 2012


My husband works in Facilities at the local community college, and the majority of his coworkers are immigrants. A not-insignificant number of them make use of the free tuition benefit to take classes while juggling full-time unglamorous jobs and often families as well. Now, a lot of them are studying "practical" things like business or management. However, the fact is that having a college degree--any college degree--is better than having no college degree and can open doors into, for example, managerial positions that would be closed to people with tons of experience but no sheepskin.

It also makes me curious what his background was before he came to the U.S. at the age of 32. The amazement that A!Humble!Janitor! could keep up with Ivy league undergrads in a Classics curriculum overlooks the fact that many immigrants who come to the U.S. as adults and wind up as blue collar laborers actually may have left behind a university education and/or professional careers in their homelands.
posted by drlith at 6:23 AM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


The amazement that A!Humble!Janitor! could keep up with Ivy league undergrads in a Classics curriculum overlooks the fact that many immigrants who come to the U.S. as adults and wind up as blue collar laborers actually may have left behind a university education and/or professional careers in their homelands.

Yes. I know a guy who came to the U.S. to marry his USian wife, was a teacher with a Masters' in his home country, and speaks four or five languages (Arabic, French, Spanish, I think Berber, and English). Somehow, his Masters' doesn't count over here so he doesn't teach. He's a line cook at a restaurant.
posted by gauche at 7:43 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I LOVED Gac when I was there as an undergrad. An awesome guy. A great story.

I took my current (not well paying) job in higher ed for the cheap classes. If I figure that in, it's like a 40% annual raise.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:31 PM on May 10, 2012


gauche: "Somehow, his Masters' doesn't count over here so he doesn't teach. He's a line cook at a restaurant."

I suspect that we (in Brisbane, Australia) have the world's most educated taxi drivers for the same reason.
posted by dg at 4:39 PM on May 10, 2012


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