Flushing, N.Y., March 22, 2013 − When Yevgeniy Viller received an Academic Excellence Award at Queens College last November it was not just an acknowledgment of his gifts as a student; it was also testimony to his perseverance under extremely challenging circumstances.
For more than three years the Ukrainian-born computer science major has been fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a diagnosis he received at age 23, just weeks after immigrating to the U.S. from Israel and a month after becoming married. He recalls this as a period of fear and uncertainty in which he endured four months of chemotherapy and several hospitalizations due to complications. Yet, he maintained faith in his doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital, who he credits with getting him through the ordeal.
It was not unlike the faith that carried him through intense combat as a paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Force during the 2006 war in Lebanon. Of receiving the news of his diagnosis with his wife, Yelena, he matter-of-factly remarks, “It was just one other obstacle that we can overcome. That’s it.”
Despite the challenges presented by Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Viller, at the urging of his wife, enrolled in QC’s English Language Institute (ELI). (She also is an immigrant, having come to the U.S. as a child from her native Tajikistan.) “Yelena said that I should start learning language more academically to prepare for enrolling in college.”
While still undergoing radiation therapy, Viller began the ELI program at the intermediate level, having already studied English in high school in the Ukraine and during the year he spent at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He calls the program “awesome” as it allowed him to develop his conversation skills in a supportive environment and gave him the confidence to pursue college studies.
While Viller acknowledges the support of his ELI teachers as being instrumental in his academic success, one of them, Nancy Mare, says that Viller’s achievement really comes as no surprise: “He was an outstanding student from day one. He was a natural leader to his classmates who came from many different countries.
“Despite his health issues,” she continues, “Yevgeniy always maintained a positive attitude and made sure to keep up with his class work. For these reasons, I am not surprised at all by his success. I would expect nothing less from such a bright, diligent student who pushed himself in spite of his problems and now continues to excel in everything he does.”
Viller says the lymphoma has been in remission for two years. Currently a lower junior, he hopes to find a job in computer programming after graduation. That certainly would please his father, a computer programmer in Israel who helps his son with homework from time to time via that remarkable computer innovation, Skype.
When it comes to reading books in both English and Russian, Viller favors another computer innovation, the Nook e-reader. “I like historical literature, science fiction. I don’t prefer a particular style. Russian writers I read in Russian and English writers I read in English because I’ve discovered the translation is not always so good.”
His ELI teachers would be delighted to hear him say that.
For more about Queens College visit http://www.qc.cuny.edu/Pages/default.aspx
Contact: Phyllis Cohen Stevens
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