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Mrs Obama Praises Princeton First

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Nicholas Johnson

By FARRAH JOHNSON

fjohnson@tribunemedia.net

Former US First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday added her own tribute to the son of a Bahamian doctor who has made history by becoming the first black valedictorian at Princeton University.

Nicholas Johnson, 22, an operations research and financial engineering major, has been named valedictorian of Princeton’s Class of 2020. This makes him the first student of African descent to earn the prestigious title in the Ivy League institution’s 274-year history.

After news of Nicholas’ achievement broke Mrs Obama issued a statement on social media which read: “This Princeton alum is so proud of you, Nick! Congratulations on becoming valedictorian - and making history. I have a feeling this is just the beginning for you, and I cannot wait to see everything yoiu continue to achieve.”

Nicholas’ father, Dr Dexter Johnson, is a Bahamian who currently practices medicine in Ottawa, Canada. He told The Tribune his family was proud of his son for his monumental achievement.

“When Princeton gave him this award we kind of suspected — because we knew Princeton’s history— he was the first black person, but we weren’t sure,” Dr Johnson said.

“It wasn’t confirmed until a week ago when Princeton called him back and told him they had searched their archives high and low looking for another black valedictorian and he was indeed the first one in their history. So we were all ecstatic and the news just went viral.”

Dr Johnson said it took a village to get his son to the position he was in now and emphasised how proud he is of his Bahamian roots.

“I’m a Bahamian with roots going back to Cat Island. I spent the first six years of my life in Arthur’s Town with my grandmother and at the age of seven I moved back to Nassau with my other sister. I went to Oakes Field Primary and then on to St Anne’s High School and then did my A-levels at St John’s.

“After St John’s, I went off and studied at McGill University. I did my undergraduate in my dental degree there and then I went on to New York Medical College to do my medical degree. So with all of this, it was a pleasure to get to this point where my wife and I would have someone like Nicholas, who then takes things to the next level just smashing barriers.”

Dr Johnson said he believed his son’s accomplishment was a great story for a “small country like The Bahamas,” because it could inspire others to strive for greatness.

“I’d like this story to inspire the youth of the country in particular the young black men,” he said. “Bahamians are very proud people and it’s just great to know that it took one of our own to finally kick that door down after 274 years. And it’s really an accomplishment standing on the shoulders of many others. My wife’s family are of Jamaican descent, my family are of Bahamian descent and so indeed it takes a village.”

He said his son is an exceptional young man.

“He was the valedictorian at his high school and he also got into quite a few undergraduate schools. All of the Ivy Leagues took him and again when he applied for his PHd he actually got into Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Berkley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology and they were all offering him full funded scholarships.”

Dr Johson’s wife, Dr Anita Brown-Johnson, is a medical practitioner of West Indian descent.

She told The Tribune they were “overjoyed” when they first heard that Nicholas was going to be the valedictorian. “We feel so very grateful for all who have contributed to paving the path to make this possible,” she said.

“Quite frankly, we recognise Nicholas to be a very disciplined, diligent and gifted child from earlier on so we are delighted with the achievement and we also feel so grateful for our forefathers and all of their sacrifices that have led to Nicholas’ achievements as well as our own.”

Dr Brown-Johnson described Nicholas as a “very humble guy.” When asked to describe her son’s initial reaction to receiving the news, she said: “He has had numerous accomplishments along the way and he’s someone who doesn’t even mention it. If we don’t ask, he sometimes doesn’t even think to tell us. That’s the kind of person he is.

“But this particular news we knew was very well received by him. When he was sharing the news with us you could see the sense of pride and joy. So truly he could not conceal his excitement so we were very happy for him.”

Nicholas himself told the New York Times: “Being Princeton’s first black valedictorian is very empowering, especially given its historical ties to the institution of slavery. I hope this achievement serves as inspiration to black students coming up behind me.”

In 2017, Nicholas participated in Whitman’s exchange programme with Morningside College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is also a recipient of the Class of 1883 English Prize for Freshmen in the School of Engineering, a two-time recipient of the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence and co-recipient with Sommers of the Class of 1939 Princeton Scholar Award.

In Fall 2019, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and to Tau Beta Pi in 2018, where he served as president of the Princeton Chapter in 2019. Mr Johnson is also a graduate of Selwyn House School and attended Marianopolis College in Quebec, Canada.

This summer, Nicholas will intern as a hybrid quantitative researcher and software developer at the D E Shaw Group before beginning his PhD studies in operations research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in fall 2020.

Comments

themessenger 3 months ago

Congratulations Dr. Johnson and Dr. Brown-Johnson and of course Nicholas, you should all be extremely proud of his outstanding accomplishments.

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ThisIsOurs 3 months ago

Seconded. This is a great achievement

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birdiestrachan 3 months ago

I am very proud of him a young Bahamian man who has done well.

It is my hope that many more of our young men will do well.

I hate to see them in hand cuffs. They were all born for better.

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Quietobserver 3 months ago

Where did it say that he is Bahamian? His father is but his mother is Jamaican and he was born in Canada.

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K4C 3 months ago

Dr Dexter Johnson practices dentistry in Ottawa Canada

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DDK 3 months ago

Good job. Congratulations!

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sheeprunner12 3 months ago

When was the last time that this family ever been to this country …. much less contributed to the development of this country ……….. Please do not use Bahamian loosely. He's flown the coop …….. Maybe a naturalized Canadian by now ........... never to return. SMT

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 months ago

Well done indeed.

Nicholas Johnson is the kind of young man who will soar to even greater heights in the right environment in the right country. It boggles the mind to think of the many great contributions he will be making in his chosen field of operations research after obtaining his PhD from MIT and gaining invaluable work experience in North America. He will likely make North America his home and by doing so avoid having to contend with all of the nonsense most Bahamians now face on a daily basis as a result of decades of manipulation and corruptiion by our elitist political ruling class that have left us with D- quality elected officials..

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tetelestai 3 months ago

When you are right, you are right.

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Quietobserver 3 months ago

The father clearly stated that his wife is of Jamaican descent yet the journalist deflected later on by saying his wife is of West Indian descent. It takes a village, as the father said.

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BahamaPundit 3 months ago

This story should have taken up the entire front page of the Tribune newspaper. This is an unbelievable, jaw on the floor, achievement. That the tiny Bahamas would have achieved this milestone before all other countries is simply miraculous. I guess it takes having gone to a prestigious or Ivy League US University to know what a big deal this is.

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BahamaPundit 3 months ago

This represents a watershed moment of the black Civil Rights movement, and this gentleman should go down in history alongside President Obama, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglass.

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BONEFISH 3 months ago

Congratulations.A tremendous achievement.Ground-breaking. This also shows the numerous achievements by Bahamians living in the diaspora.

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