IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Graduation roundup: Columbia janitor gets degree after 12 years, question popped at UNC and happy docs at KU

Maura Mayorga, standing right, and Michael Wengenroth embrace after getting engaged during the University of North Carolina's 2012 commencement in Chapel Hill, N.C., May 12. About 5,700 students graduated.
Maura Mayorga, standing right, and Michael Wengenroth embrace after getting engaged during the University of North Carolina's 2012 commencement in Chapel Hill, N.C., May 12. About 5,700 students graduated.Takaaki Iwabu / The News & Observer via AP
Graduates in the School of Medicine celebrate during the 140th annual commencement ceremony at the University of Kansas, May 13, in Lawrence, Kan.
Graduates in the School of Medicine celebrate during the 140th annual commencement ceremony at the University of Kansas, May 13, in Lawrence, Kan.Charlie Riedel / AP

Columbia University janitor Gac Filipaj, center, looks on during the Columbia University School of General Studies graduation ceremony, May 13, 2012, in New York. Filipaj, an ethnic Albanian who left his native Montenegro 20 years ago to escape war, is graduating with honors after 12 years of balancing studies and his full-time job.
Columbia University janitor Gac Filipaj, center, looks on during the Columbia University School of General Studies graduation ceremony, May 13, 2012, in New York. Filipaj, an ethnic Albanian who left his native Montenegro 20 years ago to escape war, is graduating with honors after 12 years of balancing studies and his full-time job.Jason DeCrow / AP

For years, Gac Filipaj mopped floors, cleaned toilets and took out trash at Columbia University.

A refugee from war-torn Yugoslavia, he eked out a living working for the Ivy League school. But Sunday was payback time: The 52-year-old janitor donned a cap and gown to graduate with a bachelor's degree in classics

For Filipaj, the degree comes after years of studying late into the night in his Bronx apartment, where he'd open his books after a 2:30-11 p.m. shift as a "heavy cleaner" - his job title. Before exam time or to finish a paper, he'd pull all-nighters, then go to class in the morning and then to work.

On Sunday morning in the sun-drenched grassy quad of Columbia's Manhattan campus, Filipaj flashed a huge smile and a thumbs-up as he walked off the podium after a handshake from Columbia President Lee Bollinger.

-- Reported by the Associated Press

Read the full story

Maura Mayorga, standing right, and Michael Wengenroth embrace after getting engaged during the University of North Carolina's 2012 commencement in Chapel Hill, N.C., May 12. About 5,700 students graduated.
Maura Mayorga, standing right, and Michael Wengenroth embrace after getting engaged during the University of North Carolina's 2012 commencement in Chapel Hill, N.C., May 12. About 5,700 students graduated.Takaaki Iwabu / The News & Observer via AP

 Follow @msnbc_pictures