NASA Pioneer Katherine Johnson Attends Unveiling Ceremony Of Her Own Statue At Alma Mater

 

Photo credit: F. Brian Ferguson/Gazette-Mail 

On Saturday, a day before her 100th birthday, NASA pioneer Katherine Johnson returned to her alma mater of West Virginia State University (WVSU) for the special unveiling of a bronze statue in her honor. 

Photo credit: F. Brian Ferguson/Gazette-Mail 

Johnson, a native of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, started her collegiate journey at WVSU at the early age of 15. In 1937, at the age of 18, she graduated from the HBCU summa cum laude with a bachelor's degrees in math and french. After years of working as a teacher, Johnson joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (later known as NASA) as a mathematician. Her work at NASA included calculating historic flight trajectories for the first American to go into space, for the first American to orbit earth, and the flight path for the first human trip to the moon. Johnson worked for NASA for a total of 33 years. 

Photo via: West Virginia State University 

"What makes Katherine so extraordinary is she not only prevailed while segregation failed, Doctor Johnson has continued to persevere and thrive with the gracious poise and clarity that defies mere words of explanation, let alone definition," said NASA astronaut Dr. Yvonne Cagle, who was the keynote speaker for the unveiling ceremony. "So what can you say after a century, about someone like Dr. Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson — our very own global, global genius? Let's see — you say nothing. You don't say anything. You listen."

According to the Charlotte Gazette-Mail, 75 of Johnson's family members, from her children, to grandchildren, to great-grandchildren, attended the ceremony. 

"I hope this statue does what we would like it to do, and that's inspire students for years to come." said Johnson's daughter, Joylette Hylick. 

Photo via: West Virginia State University 

During the ceremony, a scholarship fund was also named in Johnson's honor. The new scholarship will be endowed by the university for $100,000 and will award students majoring in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) areas. 

Photo via: West Virginia State University

"It is my hope that the students who pass by (this statue) every day will be reminded of Katherine's legacy and will be inspired to keep their passion for knowledge alive," said U.S. Senator. Joe Manchin at the ceremony. 

"Every one of our female leaders in West Virginia are an epitome of strength ... and advancements in their fields. They serve as inspiring role models for the next generation, and that is due in great part to the women who broke ground in generations past. Because of the accomplishments of intellectual leaders such as Katherine, more young women have and will blaze their own trails in the fields of science, math, engineering and tech, and will continue to make our state and our entire nation proud."


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