Nathaniel Yankelev Named Valedictorian for Lander College for Men
New York, N.Y. – Nathaniel Yankelev of Philadelphia, PA, has been named the 2012 valedictorian of Lander College for Men (LCM).
“Nathaniel is an exceptionally talented young man, not only a gifted mathematician, but a gifted pianist as well. He will contribute much to the future of the Jewish community, and to the world beyond,” said Dr. Moshe Sokol, dean of the Lander College for Men.
Throughout his time at LCM, Nathaniel has been active in student life, serving as president of the Lander Mathematics Society for two years, writing for the school paper and editing other school publications such as the Lander Haggadah and Hanukkah pamphlets.
Yankelev performed in a recital in Carnegie Hall during his senior year of high school, and continues to compose music and learn classical music as well. He was the first place winner at this year’s “Lander's Got Talent” show, performing an original arrangement of the theme from the film Pirates of the Caribbean.
He obviously has strong musical genes in his blood: His father, Yosef Yankelev, who was born in Lithuania and came to the U.S. in 1959, is an accomplished violinist. He graduated from Juilliard and has concertized extensively both in the U.S. and abroad as a soloist and as the founding first violinist with the Naumburg-award winning New World String Quartet.
Yankelev, who has a 4.0 grade point average, is graduating with a degree in mathematics and a minor in finance. He has already passed three actuarial exams and plans to pursue a career as an actuary once he completes the rabbinical program at LCM. While in school he had two prestigious internships, one at New York Life and the other at Milliman Consulting.
Even with his perfect GPA, Yankelev said he didn’t know he would be named valedictorian. “I was really excited when I got the call telling me there was a letter in my mailbox,” he said. “I knew that meant I was either valedictorian or salutatorian.”
When Nathaniel was twelve years old, he visited his uncle, an observant Jew in Monsey, New York. Although Yankelev’s family is not religious, the time spent in the community piqued his interest in Judaism.
“It was the first time I ever felt spirituality and it was a very strong feeling,” he said. That it occurred in a synagogue was a signal to him that he ought to continue down this path. He began reading up on the subject and, with the help of his uncle, found an appropriate school — Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva of Cherry Hill — as well as a religious camp to attend in order to help facilitate his transition toward religious life. Yankelev flourished in Chofetz Chaim, scoring a 1600 on his SAT’s, and was named the valedictorian of his class. Although he planned on learning in Israel for a year before attending college, after the year in Israel he spent another at Chofetz Chaim Miami and then a half year at Chofetz Chaim in Kew Gardens Hills. While he was in Kew Gardens Hills he decided to attend LCM, also with a full tuition merit scholarship.
He said that after he graduates he plans on serving on the LCM Alumni Council and returning for alumni events to help students discuss the fields they plan to go into, and to network. Yankelev also tutors students in a variety of subjects, including pre-calculus, college math, probability theory, corporate finance and actuarial math.
The Lander College for Men is an undergraduate division of Touro College, in service to the Jewish community. Established in the fall of 2000 and located in Queens, N.Y., the Lander College for Men is grounded in a dual curriculum of intensive Torah study and a wide range of academic programs, and students major in professionally oriented disciplines. Lander College for Men provides students with an environment that produces ethical, mature, and well- rounded professionals committed to scholarship and career growth. Dedicated to Touro’s mission of perpetuating the Jewish heritage, Lander College for Men prepares students to uphold the ideals of Torah and pursue positions of professional and communal leadership.