Jonathan Castiel Named Lander College for Men Valedictorian

Future Physician Credits Lander’s Dual Curriculum with His Success

June 05, 2020
Jonathan Castiel is LCM\'s 2020 valedictorian.

Castiel, who hopes to become a doctor, said that he chose LCM because of the school’s mixture of high-level learning and rigorous academics.

“Lander was the perfect place for me to both maintain a high level of Judaism and learning, while, at the same time, be able to get a degree and excel in my secular studies,” said Castiel, who attended LCM after learning in Yeshivas Mikdash Melech in Israel.

During his time at LCM, Castiel maintained close relationships with LCM professors, Dr. Ann Shinnar and Dr. Kenneth Danishefsky, the respective chairs of LCM’s chemistry and biology department. Castiel said that those professors—alongside his vital relationship with his rebbe, LCM Menahel and Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yehuda Shmulewitz—enabled him to make the most of his time at LCM.

“I learned the whole day and studied at night,” recalled Castiel. “It was both wonderful and intense. I was able to develop my time management skills that enabled me to both learn and take secular classes.”

Castiel said his desire to become a doctor stems from the future role he wants to play in his community. “I want to be a leader and show that you can observe mitzvot and still be a part of a secular world,” said Castiel. “I believe being a doctor is also one of the greatest mitzvoth: you are saving lives.”

Castiel maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.98 during his time at LCM and spent his summers working in a cardiology lab in Montreal. LCM Dean Moshe Sokol, PhD, said that the school selects valedictorians based on a combination of academic achievement, personal character and “the extent to which he embodies the ideals of the institution, including his commitment to Torah studies.”

“Jonathan is not only a talented student, highly disciplined and very capable,” stated Dean Sokol. “He is also deeply committed to Torah study and a wonderful person, considerate, caring, and respectful. He represents the best of Lander College for Men.”

Castiel plans to utilize his time management skills while he attends medical school, along with a lesson he took from his rebbe.

“Rabbi Shmulewitz always pushed on us that no matter how busy you are, you must always give a part of yourself to Hashem,” said Castiel. “And even if you’re going to be studying all day for a test, you have to put in some time to learn.”

Castiel also credited his fellow students with helping him succeed.

“My advice to future LCM students is to form a group of like-minded peers,” he said. “Every person pushes the other one higher, especially when things are difficult. I’m very fortunate to have my friends.”

Castiel married his wife in April of last year and the two are expecting a child. Castiel hopes to attend medical school next year.

“Lander was the best choice for me,” he said.