INSTITUTE, W.Va. – West Virginia State University will celebrate one of its most recognizable alumni on Friday.
August 26 marks Katherine Johnson’s Day in West Virginia, the day NASA’s iconic pioneering mathematician was born in 1918. A 10-hour program at the site of her statue on the Virginia State campus -Occidental will include a wreath on the statue as well as brief remarks. about Johnson’s life and legacy and its impact not only on his alma mater, but also on the nation and the world.
West Virginia State University (WVSU) President Ericke Cage told 580-WCHS that Johnson embodies the transformative power of education.
“What Katherine Johnson’s legacy says, no matter where you’re from, no matter what your background, if you work hard and get an education, the sky’s the limit,” Cage said.
Johnson, a White Sulfur Spring native, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a civilian. She came to the Institute when she was 10 years old to attend high school that was once part of the West Virginia State campus.
After graduating from high school at age 15, she immediately enrolled in college classes in the state of West Virginia, the university said. Johnson graduated summa cum laude in 1937 at the age of 18 with bachelor’s degrees in math and French.
His pioneering work as a “computer” at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and later at NASA, was widely recognized after the publication of the book “Hidden Figure” and the film of the same name. . Johnson’s story as a computer was told to the world as she calculated the trajectory of Alan Shepard, the first American in space.
During his later NASA career, Johnson worked on the Space Shuttle program and the Earth Resources satellite and encouraged students to pursue careers in science and technology. Johnson worked at the agency until 1986, when she retired after 33 years of service, according to a statement.
During her tenure at NASA, she received many prestigious awards. Among them were the NASA Lunar Orbiter Award and three NASA Special Achievement Awards. She was named Mathematician of the Year in 1997 by the National Technical Association.
“Katherine was able to persevere and change the course of American and world history through hard work and education,” Cage said.
In September 2017, NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia named its new building after her, the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility.
On August 25, 2018, the day before Johnson’s 100th birthday, WVSU dedicated a scholarship and plaza featuring a statue in Johnson’s honor.
Johnson died on February 24, 2020 at the age of 101.