Princeton University has named its first black valedictorian in the school’s 274-year history. According to their press release, Nicholas Johnson, an operations research and financial engineering from concentrator from Montreal, has been named valedictorian of Princeton’s Class of 2020. Grace Sommers, a concentrator from Bridgewater, New Jersey, has been named the Latin salutatorian.
Johnson told The New York Times that Princeton had “very much been a leader amongst its peer institutions.” He also noted that the school, which has mostly white students, has been “very critical and cognizant about its ties to slavery.”
“They’ve taken very deliberate steps to reconcile things,” he added. Princeton is among dozens of universities, including Harvard and Brown, that have begun to face their historical connections to slavery in recent years. Black students make up roughly eight percent of Princeton’s undergraduates, according to the Times. “I hope this achievement serves as inspiration to black students coming up behind me,” Johnson said.
The Princeton faculty accepted the nominations of the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing at its April 27 meeting.
Princeton will hold a virtual commencement for the Class of 2020 on Sunday, May 31, 2020, in which Johnson and Sommers will participate. An in-person ceremony will be held in May 2021.