NPR : News

Seizing The American Dream: From Janitor To Ivy-League Graduate

There are few stories as sweet as that of Gac Filipaj. He's a 52-year-old refugee who emmigrated from a war-torn former Yugoslavia to work as a janitor at one of America's premiere universities.

It took him seven years to learn English and gain acceptance into Columbia, where he received free tuition because he's an employee. As the AP reports, he took classes in the morning, then worked 2:30-to-11 p.m as a "heavy cleaner," and when he got home after midnight he would hit the books.

Sunday, after 12-years of study, he received a bachelor's in classics and he graduated with honors.

"This is a man with great pride, whether he's doing custodial work or academics," Peter Awn, dean of Columbia's School of General Studies, told the AP. "He is immensely humble and grateful, but he's one individual who makes his own future."

Congrats, Mr. Filipaj, who says his next move is a graduate degree.

Here's Al-Jazeera's report of his graduation:

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


Rapid Learners: How Pixar Animators Created A Very Scary River

What would a small dinosaur look like in Class V rapids? That's the question Pixar filmmakers had to answer for their film The Good Dinosaur. So they piled into a raft to figure it out for themselves.

We Tried A Futuristic Cranberry. It Was Fresh And Naturally Sweet

Cranberry breeders in Wisconsin have developed a berry that's tart but also sweet, like a Granny Smith apple. They say the variety isn't ready for production but could one day become a fresh product.

Russian Military Jet Crash Heightens Debate Over Syria No-Fly Zone

Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio and others are supporting the idea of a no-fly zone over Syria to try to help civilians there. But skeptics say it no longer has any relevance to today's Syrian crisis.

Used Rocket Is A New Breakthrough For Blue Origin's Space Plan

Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, has sent a craft past the edge of space and then landed its rocket safely – and vertically — in Texas.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.