Princeton University in New Jersey was the last of the Ivy League universities to admit Black students. It was not until World War II, when the federal government opened a Naval Training School at Princeton on October 5, 1942, that the color barrier was finally broken. Four Black students, John Leroy Howard, James Everett Ward, Arthur Jewell Wilson, Jr., and Melvin Murchison, Jr., entered the university, with the first three earning undergraduate degrees. The first African American to enter Princeton as an undergraduate during peacetime was Joseph Ralph Moss. A resident of Princeton, Moss entered the university in the autumn of 1947 and graduated on June 12, 1951.
This year, for the first time in the 274-year history of Princeton University, a Black person will be the valedictorian of the graduating class. Nicholas Johnson is a graduate of Selwyn House School in Westmount, Quebec. He has majored in operations research and financial engineering.
Johnson 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 this fall.
“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.