Bahamian Nicholas Johnson, 22, has made history by becoming the first Black valedictorian of Princeton University in its 274 years of existence.
Princeton is one of the prestigious Ivy League schools in the United States, and Johnson told The Nassau Guardian that he feels honored to have achieved such a milestone.
“Being Princeton’s first Black valedictorian holds special significance to me particularly given Princeton’s historical ties to the institution of slavery,” he said.
“I feel honored to have been selected for this honor and am very grateful for the countless mentors who have supported me in my journey. I hope that this achievement motivates and inspires young Black students, particularly those interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.”
Johnson is the son of Dr. Dexter Johnson, who is the first and only Bahamian to be a licensed member of both the Bahamas Medical Council and the Bahamas Dental Council.
Dr. Johnson now lives in Quebec, Canada, with his wife, Dr. Anita Brown-Johnson.
Dr. Brown-Johnson, of Jamaican-Canadian heritage, completed medical school training at McGill University and additional fellowship training in Geriatrics at the Baycrest Center for Geriatrics in Toronto.
The Johnsons met at McGill.
Dr. Johnson, the father, has been running a private clinic in Centreville for the past three years.
He told The Guardian that he comes home to The Bahamas once a month to lend his assistance, and that he’s proud of his son’s accomplishment.
“He’s a hard worker and really deserves it,” Dr. Johnson said.
“That’s our Bahamian son of the soil.”
Johnson was offered full scholarships to pursue his PhD at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Columbia University, Stanford University and Berkeley University.
He has decided to attend MIT this fall to study operations research.
Johnson also graduated as valedictorian from his high school, Selwyn House School in Quebec, and while his concentration is in operations research and financial engineering, he is also aiming to complete certification in other STEM-based fields.
In addition to Johnson’s many academic accomplishments, he was also “elected to Phi Beta Kappa in fall 2019 and to Tau Beta Pi in 2018, where he served as president of the Princeton Chapter in 2019”, according to the Princeton University website.
The website also noted that a “virtual commencement for the Class of 2020” will be held on Sunday, May 31, 2020, at which Johnson is expected to participate.
An in-person ceremony will take place sometime during the month of May, it stated.