Lanier Middle School changes its name to honor NASA legend Katherine Johnson

Virginia

FAIRFAX, Va. (WDVM) — After 300 submissions for suggested name changes, Lanier Middle school is changing its name to honor late NASA legend Dr. Katherine Johnson.

The city of Fairfax School Board voted unanimously to change the name of the school board back in November of last year. A ceremony was held to celebrate the name change and highlight Johnson’s contributions to not only NASA but the nation.

Toby Sorensen, Fairfax School board member, said, “We do not want the name of our middle school to be one of forgotten origin. This is why we celebrate Katherine Johnson today and why we want students of today and tomorrow, to learn and remember her contributions. We want all children black, white, brown, female and male to be inspired by her.”

On October 5, Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Pajardo presented the six name submissions: Maya Angelou, Katherine Johnson, Legacy, Fairfax Woods, Independence and City. The name was officially changed in a ceremony Friday. Guest speakers at the event included Katherine Johnson family members, student speakers, and Dr. Aprille Ericsson from NASA.

Born in 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Dr. Katherine Goble Johnson was one of three Black students to integrate West Virginia’s graduate school in mathematics. Dr. Johnson joined the all-black West Area Computing section at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1952. 

In 1957. the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik refocused Dr. Johnson and the country as part of NACA’s Space Task Group which later became NASA. 

Dr. Johnson retired after 33 years at NASA and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 by President Barack Obama.

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