Nicholas Johnson: Princeton’s first black valedictorian in university’s 274-year history

by Duke Magazine
Image credit: Lisa Festa, Center for Career Development / Nicholas Johnson/Princeton

At the rising curve of the ravaging coronavirus that have thrown the entirety of the world into frenzy with huge concerns about life, the moment is still not devoid of good news celebrating the excellence of  black Ivy Leaguer. Nicholas Johnson has been named Princeton’s first black valedictorian in the history of the institution for 274 years. 

Princeton announced the news via press release, and said that Johnson and salutatorian Grace Sommers will participate in their virtual commencement on Sunday, May 31. The University is slated to hold a belated in-person commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 next spring in May 2021 until the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson, who is a Montreal indigene, studied Operations Research and Financial Engineering, and was able to enjoy several international internships and cultural immersion trips to Peru, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom. As an emerging senior, Johnson worked as a Software Engineer in machine learning at Google’s California headquarters.

The brilliant young man is a socialite outside academics life, and highlighted his matriculation as making memories with friends.

“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.

Johnson has great plans of spending this summer interning as a hybrid quantitative researcher and software developer at the D. E. Shaw Group before beginning Ph.D. studies in Operations Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in fall 2020.

His senior thesis titled “Sequential Stochastic Network Structure Optimization with Applications to Addressing Canada’s Obesity Epidemic,” focused on “developing high-performance, efficient algorithms to solve a network-based optimization problem that models a community-based preventative health intervention designed to curb the prevalence of obesity in Canada,” said Princeton in a statement.

Congrats on making blacks proud!

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