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The College of Arts Sciences

Avichai Kapach: 'I am not the same person I was before I came here'

May 23, 2016

Avichai Kapach


Providence, RI

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

I actually managed to consolidate my career goals during my first week at Cornell. While walking through the corridor of the classics department in Goldwin Smith Hall, I happened to look into the open door of one of the offices, where I saw an aged professor working in silence amid tall piles of books (I will not name names). Though the disarray of that office might have disturbed some, to me it looked like a paradise, and it became my goal to enter that paradise (which, to most, goes by the name of “academia”).

How did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?

I began my studies at Cornell convinced that knowledge and intellect were our most prized possessions. Though I still believe that intellectual pursuits are invaluable and indispensable, I have also come to see some of the limitations of my original approach. One of the things I admire most about Cornell is that, despite its Ivy League status, it has killed much of what was elitist and supercilious in me and in my beliefs, rather than nurture that part of me (as a lesser university might have done): I do not think many other top-tier institutions could have accomplished the same. In my values, beliefs and personal philosophy, I am not the same person I was before I came here, and I believe that is a very good thing.