Nicholas Johnson

Nicholas Johnson, an operations research and financial engineering concentrator was named valedictorian of Princeton University’s Class of 2020.

The Montreal, Canada native made history as the first black valedictorian in the Ivy League University’s 274-year history.

"It feels empowering. Being Princeton's first Black Valedictorian holds special significance to me particularly given Princeton's historical ties to the institution of slavery," Johnson told CNN via Facebook message. "I hope that this achievement motivates and inspires younger black students, particularly those interested in STEM fields."

Johnson’s senior thesis focused on developing algorithms to design a community-based preventative health intervention to decrease obesity in his native Canada.

He plans to spend 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.

“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, according to a Princeton University news release.

Due to COVID-19, Princeton will hold a virtual commencement for the Class of 2020 on Sunday, May 31, 2020, in which Johnson will participate.

Information from CNN.com contributed to this report.

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