Middle School Honors NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson In Name Change

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A Virginia middle school is dropping the name of a confederate soldier to honor NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson. The school, formerly known as the Sidney Lanier Middle School in Fairfax, Virginia officially became Katherine Johnson Middle School on Friday (June 11).

The city’s school board voted unanimously to get rid of the school’s old name in November 2020, after conducting a survey and finding that an overwhelming majority in the community wanted to ditch the name. The public submitted over 300 names before the “Hidden Figure” was picked. 

“The message to our middle school students is ‘Eagles can soar beyond these earthly skies at Katherine Johnson Middle School,” Toby Sorensen, a school board member, said.

“Her contributions continued to serve the nation and helped ensure that the ‘Eagle had landed… and landed safely.’ So I think it appropriate that the name Katherine Johnson for our middle school will inspire new generations of ‘Eagles’ for our community, and I look forward to watching them fly,” school board member Jon Buttram said seconding the motion.

The official name change ceremony was held Friday (June 11) and included remarks from Dr. Aprille Ericsson, a 25-year NASA veteran and history maker herself. Ericsson is the first female to earn a doctorate degree in mechanical engineering from Howard University and the first Black woman to receive a Phd in Engineering at NASA.

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