Princeton names first black valedictorian in university’s history

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Nicholas Johnson

Nicholas Johnson, valedictorian of Princeton’s Class of 2020.
(Credit: Lisa Festa, Center for Career Development/Princeton University)

(CNN) – Princeton has named its first black valedictorian in the university’s 274-year history.

Nicholas Johnson, a Canadian student majoring in operations research and financial engineering, is the class of 2020 valedictorian.

“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 in a statement.

Johnson says the honor is empowering because of the university’s historical ties to slavery.

The coronavirus pandemic prompted Princeton to cancel its in-person graduation ceremony, but the school is still holding a virtual one on May 31.

Johnson plans to intern this summer as a researcher and software developer at the D. E. Shaw Group, then begin pursuing his Ph.D. in operations research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.

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