Nicholas Johnson, a graduating senior originally from Montreal, will be the first Black valedictorian in Princeton’s 274 years of existence, the university announced in a press release.
Johnson acknowledged the importance of his achievements, given Princeton’s history with slavery.
“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. “I hope that this achievement motivates and inspires younger Black students, particularly those interested in STEM fields.”
Johnson, who is majoring in operations research and financial engineering, will be participating in the esteemed university’s virtual commencement for the Class of 2020 at the end of the month. The coronavirus pandemic has prompted many schools to put off their graduations for this year for the safety of everyone.
However, an in-person ceremony has been scheduled for next year May, according to the university.
Although Johnson told CNN it was “disappointing” not being able to celebrate graduation with his class this year, he is thankful that there will be an opportunity next year.
“I have been comforted to see how well my friends and classmates have adapted to these challenging times and have ensured that Princeton’s strong community persists virtually despite our physical separation from one another.,” he added.