Nicholas Johnson becomes Princeton’s first black valedictorian

For the first time in more than two centuries, a black student, Nicholas Johnson, has been named valedictorian at Princeton University.

Though the school, which was founded in New Jersey in 1746 and is the nation’s fourth oldest college, made the announcement in a release late last month, the news of the historic first has only just begun to pick up national headlines

In a statement provided by the school, Johnson, 22, said his “favorite memories of my time at Princeton are memories of time spent with close friends and classmates engaging in stimulating discussions — often late at night — about our beliefs, the cultures and environments in which we were raised, the state of the world, and how we plan on contributing positively to it in our own unique way.”

In further comments provided to The New York Times about his historic feat, Johnson, who majored in operations research and financial engineering and hails from Montreal, said that “being Princeton’s first black valedictorian is very empowering, especially given its historical ties to the institution of slavery.”

He told the paper that he also felt the university had “very much been a leader amongst its peer institutions” and is “very critical and cognizant about its ties to slavery.” 

“I hope this achievement serves as inspiration to black students coming up behind me,” Johnson said.

According to a school announcement, he plans to spend the coming summer interning at the D. E. Shaw Group “as a hybrid quantitative researcher and software developer.” He also plans to begin “Ph.D. studies in operations research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in fall 2020,” the school said, “pursuing certificates in statistics and machine learning, applied and computational mathematics, and applications of computing.”

Though schools in New Jersey are to remain closed for the rest of the school year amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Princeton said Johnson will still be able to participate in a virtual commencement along with his graduating class later this month.

Tags Coronavirus New Jersey Nicholas Johnson Princeton University Princeton University Valedictorian

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