Nicholas Johnson Becomes Princeton University’s First Black Valedictorian in 274-Year History

Princeton University has announced Nicholas Johnson, a student who majored in operations research and financial engineering, as the school’s first black valedictorian in its 274-year history. Johnson is also pursuing certificates in statistics and machine learning, applied and computational mathematics, and applications of computing.

Johnson, a Montreal native, will spend the summer interning at the D.E. Shaw Group as a hybrid quantitative researcher and software developer before going to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the fall where he will begin his Ph. D studies in operations research.

“Being Princeton’s first black valedictorian is very empowering, especially given its historical ties to the institution of slavery,” Johnson said, per the New York Times.

Looking back at all the memories he made while attending Princeton, which included the international internships and cultural immersion trips to Peru, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom that he considered to be especially significant, Johnson said that his fondest moments came from the stimulating conversations he had with his close friends and classmates.

“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.

Princeton will hold a virtual commencement for the Class of 2020 on May 31, and plan to make it up to those students with an in-person ceremony in May 2021.

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Congratulations to Nicholas Johnson, named valedictorian and Grace Sommers, named Latin salutatorian for #Princeton20! 👏⁣ ⁣ Nicholas Johnson ’20⁣ Hometown: Montréal, Québec⁣ Major: Operations Research and Financial Engineering⁣ Certificates: Statistics and Machine Learning, Applied and Computational Mathematics, and Applications of Computing⁣ Residential College: @whitmanatprinceton⁣ Thesis: “Sequential Stochastic Network Structure Optimization with Applications to Addressing Canada’s Obesity Epidemic”⁣ Post-grad plans: Johnson begins Ph.D. studies in operations research at @MITpics.⁣ ⁣ “My favorite memories of my time at #PrincetonU are [those] 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."⁣ ⁣ Grace Sommers ’20⁣ Hometown: Bridgewater, NJ⁣ Major: Physics⁣ Certificates: Applications of Computing, Applied and Computational Mathematics, Ancient Roman Language and Culture⁣ Residential College: @butlercollegeprinceton⁣ Thesis: “Order and Disorder in a New Class of Spin Systems”⁣ Post-grad plans: Sommers begins Ph.D. studies in physics right here at #PrincetonU.⁣ ⁣ “In addition to the joy of learning the material … the approachability of my professors, both as advisers and as instructors, has been a highlight of my learning experience … I’ve enjoyed having thought-provoking conversations with my professors and classmates."⁣ ⁣ Johnson and Sommers will participate in the 2020 virtual commencement on May 31, 2020. Congrats to Nicholas and Grace!

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