West Virginia State University unveiled a statue on Aug. 25 honoring mathematics pioneer Katherine Johnson, an alumna of the university. Johnson graduated summa cum laude in 1937 at the age of 18 with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and French.
The life-sized bronze statue depicting Johnson during her years as a mathematician at NASA was created by West Virginia sculptor Frederick Hightower, an alumnus of WVSU. Six of Johnson’s grandchildren pulled back the veil to reveal the statue along with remarks from Johnson’s daughters.
The ceremony also featured remarks from NASA astronaut Dr. Yvonne Cagle. In 2017, Cagle escorted Johnson onto the stage of the 89th Academy Awards, as the Oscars honored “Hidden Figures,” the popular movie based on a book that portrays the real life of black women working as mathematicians at NASA in the 1960s.
“It is my hope that my daughters and my students at West Virginia State University see this monument as an example of what they can accomplish,” said WVSU President Anthony L. Jenkins.
Prior to the unveiling of the statue, an endowed science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) scholarship in Johnson’s name was also dedicated. The first two recipients are Jasiaha Daniels, a freshman majoring in biology, and Alexis Scudero, a freshman majoring in computer science.
In the spirit of Katherine’s history-making achievements, Dr. Jenkins also announced the School of Engineering will open next fall.
With degree programs in Civil and Chemical Engineering, WVSU will soon become the sixteenth ABET-accredited historically black engineering school in AMIE.
AMIE (Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering) is a 25-year old organization that works to expand corporate, government, and academic alliances to attract, educate, graduate and place underrepresented minority students in engineering careers.