Dedication Rewarded


Having trouble sticking with your goals?

Sorry, no more excuses!

Gac Filipaj, a 52-year-old immigrant, came to the U.S. from war-torn Yugoslavia in 1992 barely speaking a word of English. He garnered a job as a janitor at Columbia University in New York City, a job that allowed him to earn enough money to send needed funds back to his family in the former Yugoslavia. Oh, and so that he could achieve a goal, by hopefully taking advantage of the school’s tuition-exemption benefit program that allows employees to enroll in classes for free …after he learned to speak English, of course.

After entering Columbia’s open-enrollment School of General Studies in 2000, having spent seven years first learning our language, he chose to major in the classics, where he would also have to learn ancient Greek and Latin to graduate. He attended classes at Columbia in the morning and worked his cleaning job at Columbia in the evening, often until 11 p.m. at night.

After Sunday, May 13, 2012, Columbia University won’t just be his employer, it will also be his alma mater. He will be an Ivy League graduate, with a degree in the Classics from Columbia University. A degree he earned “with honors.”

The accomplishment has not gone unnoticed by the deans of Columbia. “The key is he was in class with every other undergraduate at Columbia and competing with them,” Professor Peter Awn, dean of the School of General Studies, told the TV station. Filipaj told New York’s Daily News that he grew accustomed to seeing the surprised faces of his classmates as they came across him sweeping floors in the hallways of the school.

And after getting such a fancy degree, he remains focused on education. “I want to try, if I can, to get my master’s,” he told CBS New York. “I’d rather clean bathrooms two or three more years and get the master’s than get a lot more money and get a better job and stuff like that.”

An ivy league diploma may not be your goal, but are you employing the same amount of discipline, drive, determination, dedication, and stick-to-itiveness to achieve your goals as Gac Filipaj did to achieve his? It’s never too late to get started now. And the rewards can sometimes be …life altering.

Congratulations, Mr. Gac Filipaj, A.B.

Click HERE to see the inspiring MSNBC piece depicted above.

Enjoy today.
Achieve today.
Tomorrow is promised to no one!

15 thoughts on “Dedication Rewarded

  1. Reblogged this on ~ Inspired Thought ~ Inspired Action ~ and commented:
    I am in awe of this man. It’s amazing how I and we all can underestimate a man or woman based on their occupational uniform. It’s amazing how many of us make judgement and assumptions that one’s intelligence is equal to one’s occupation.

    That was not the case with this man; it was his past circumstances, a war-torn Yugoslavia, that brought him to America and the position that he was in, **not** his intelligence.

    And it was his awareness, his determination and focus that led him to fully taking “advantage of [his] school’s tuition-exemption benefit program that [allowed] employees to enroll in classes for free.” FOR FREE!!! Only AFTER dedicating 7 years to learn English!

    And a job well done! For he obtained Ivy League status! Graduating with a degree of honors in the Classics which called for learning Greek and Latin as well! I am a first generation Haitian-American and I am still struggling to speak the language of my culture fluently! French and Creole! He is indeed impressive!

    “And after getting such a fancy degree, he remains focused on education. “I want to try, if I can, to get my master’s,” he told CBS New York. “I’d rather clean bathrooms two or three more years and get the master’s than get a lot more money and get a better job and stuff like that.” <==== This man is a great teacher of humility and once again intelligence. He is playing smart, continuing to take advantage of the opportunities available to him employed as a Janitor.

    It is not the title of his job that makes a man, it is his knowledge and his actions we must observe and acknowledge. (This includes women of course!)

    He is pure inspiration for all students young and mature. His success story has taught me a great lesson:

    Humble yourself. Do whatever it takes to reach your goal. If it takes washing the floors, cleaning after people's careless efforts, then so be it! Because the opportunity to achieve is so much greater in the future to come then one's current occupational annoyances!

    ~ I have been inspired ~


    • You know, I think that when we reach 50, we see attending college in whole different way. It’s not the desire for more money that usually drives us, but the desire for more knowledge or self-actualization. That gives “older” students a more charming outlook on the process. It won’t be easy, but it can be charming. All the best to you, Catherine. I’ll be in your corner. 🙂


      • I definitely agree Paul. I graduated college 6 years ago obtaining a degree in a major I have yet to establish a career in and that is because once I graduated I discovered that even though I was passionate about my studies it was not my ultimate career path. I was introduced to a whole new world of options that I had to explore which brought me through a journey of trial and error.

        Now, 6 years later, I just finished my studies in the Fitness Industry and my time of studies was so much more passionate than my time in college. My desire to learn my material and drive to achieve my certification was a lot more **stronger** because I am at a age where I am starting over. And it didn’t feel good to express that to others but in the end it gave me the feeling that I need to prove that even though I didn’t get my career to jump start the first time in comparison to my fellow alumni. I can make it right the second time around because as long as your alive it’s never too late and you can never be too old to say “I did it”!!

        Life should continue to be a journey of trials and achievement! I wish you well on your journey Cathrine!


        • Kudos to you. Thanks for your input. You sound to me to be a woman with a mission. Fantastic! Let’s us not forget, Albert Schweitzer, an accomplished musician and theologian, decided to became a medical doctor when he was nearly 40 years old and then started an entirely new career in missionary medicine. Cheers! 🙂


        • Thank you Paul 🙂 Missionary Medicine?! I honestly haven’t heard of Albert Schweitzer and I will make sure to look him up and learn more! Thank you! 🙂


  2. Pingback: Talk About Spunk… | GYA today

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