274 years. That’s how long it took for Princeton to named its first Black valedictorian.
Nicholas Johnson is a Canadian kid majoring in operations research and financial engineering, has been named valedictorian of Princeton’s Class of 2020. Graduating is still a bit weird for this year’s degree-earners. They won’t be walking across the stage and nor have they actually seen their classmates much of the Spring semester since coronavirus enforced distance learning. However, Princeton plans on having a virtual ceremony for the 2020 grads, along with an in-person graduation in May 2021.
Despite the circumstances, Johnson is still happy to get the distinguishment and understands just how much it means for a Black person, who hasn’t been given the same advantages as others to achieve such a fantastic goal.
“It feels empowering. Being Princeton’s first Black Valedictorian holds special significance to me particularly given Princeton’s historical ties to the institution of slavery,” Johnson told CNN via Facebook message. “I hope that this achievement motivates and inspires younger black students, particularly those interested in STEM fields.”
Princeton announced the news in a press release where Johnson admitted that, like most college kids, his favorite part of school is the late-night talks with the friends that usually don’t end until the early morning– likely when you have an 8am class no less.
“My 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,” Johnson said.
Next up for Johnson is to continue his studies, In the fall he’ll begin taking Ph.D. classes at the prestigious MIT.