NYSCAS Valedictorian Pinchas Farkas: Academic Achievement Worth Waiting For
New York, N.Y. June 9, 2015 - It may have taken a little longer for Pinchas Farkas to graduate from college, but boy was it ever worth the wait.
Farkas, this year’s valedictorian at the commencement ceremonies of the New York School of Career and Applied Studies, never attended high school and only first learned English at the age of 13. Yet this soft spoken man went on to graduate from Touro College & University System with honors in biology and psychology.
At 28, Farkas’s journey ─as one of seven children raised in a Yiddish speaking household who became an ambitious, college graduate on an academic track to medical school─ is nothing short of remarkable. Learning English was a challenge. He prepared for his high school equivalency diploma by using the popular Khan Academy internet tutoring program where he said his understanding of the entire math curriculum “went from zero to college level” in 18 months.
His beloved brother’s death from pneumonia was “the wakeup call” that inspired Farkas to enroll at Touro, where he concentrated on building the academic foundation needed to attend medical school. At NYSCAS, he says, the education, personal attention, and support he received from faculty and the Touro community “were beyond my expectations.”
“I think the professors are exceptional. They are really passionate about their teaching,” said Farkas.
Farkas asked biology professor, Dr. Milton Schiffenbauer, if he could volunteer in the lab. “I kept bothering him. I told him, ‘I’ll do anything. I’ll clean test tubes,’” Farkas said. Dr. Schiffenbauer offered Farkas a job as a biology lab technician, and Farkas has accompanied him on presentations on their groundbreaking research at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). On June 1, he made it back from the ASM’s meeting in New Orleans just in time to deliver his valedictory address.
When he is not studying biology or participating in painstaking laboratory research, Farkas relieves stress by running up to five miles a day, and participated in the New York City and Philadelphia Marathons.
Farkas is the first in his family to attend college and, “will probably remain the first for a very long time,” he said. He aspires to a career as a cardiologist and says it was good for him to take the time he needed before enrolling in college. “I’m glad I started this late,” he said. “I know why I am here. I know what I am doing.”