Black Men Rise: Nicholas Johnson, Princeton's First Black Valedictorian

02/09/2021 12:00 AM EST by WBLS Staff

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Nicholas Johnson was named valedictorian at Princeton University in 2020, the first black valedictorian in the University’s 274-year history.

Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Johnson obtained a degree in operations research and financial engineering. In addition, he pursued certificates in statistics and machine learning, applied & computational mathematics, and applications of computing.

Johnson appreciates the University’s support which includes trips to the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Peru, however, it’s the relationships with his peers and classmates he will hold on to the most.


Johnson says:

“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.”

His professor Williams Massey was very influential when it came to his passion for STEM.

“Professor Massey inspired me by sharing his ever-present love for operations research and through his advocacy for black and African American students in STEM fields,” Johnson said. “He encouraged me to pursue increasingly ambitious research projects and to share my work at academic conferences. Professor Gutarra introduced me to academic writing during my first-year Writing Seminar. She was instrumental in helping me develop my skills as an effective academic writer and communicator, and she motivated me to become a writing fellow.”


Johnson is currently 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.

Congrats to Nicholas Johnson! Watch his valedictory speech below: