HBCU News

West Virginia State University Alumnus Creates Lasting Tribute to Katherine Johnson

INSTITUTE, W. Va – West Virginia State University (WVSU) is planned to honor distinguished NASA mathematician and WVSU alumna Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson on August 25 with a statue dedicated in her honor, it is fitting that the work was created by a fellow Yellow Jacket alum.

According to an press release by the university, Artist Frederick Hightower, a WVSU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in fine art, was commissioned to create the seven-foot-tall bronze statue that depicts Johnson during her time as a mathematician at NASA.

“I am very appreciative to WVSU for giving me the opportunity to create the monument sculpture of Mrs. Katherine Johnson,” said Hightower. “This sculpture being on our campus will not only honor the great accomplishments of Mrs. Johnson, but will also bring national attention and recognition to one of America’s great HBCU’s, West Virginia State University.”

A native of Madison, W. Va., Hightower is an accomplished artist who has created numerous portraits and has sculpted many portrait busts and miniature statuary, but the statue of Johnson is his largest creation to date. One of the busts he created, that of Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Major General Charles Rogers, is on display at the Wilson University Union on WVSU’s campus.

“As a child, visiting the West Virginia State Capitol and seeing all the great sculpture, I knew that was what I wanted to do someday,” Hightower said.

Hightower’s business, Excellent images Creations, specializes in classical portraits done both in oil, acrylic, pencil and sculpture.

In additional to his artistic endeavors, Hightower is also the founder and pastor of the All Nations Revival Center Church in Institute, W. Va. Hightower’s artwork is also featured prominently at his church where an 85 foot by 30 foot mural serves as the sanctuary’s backdrop.

The dedication and unveiling ceremony for the Katherine Johnson statue is Saturday, Aug 25, 2019 at 11 a.m. on the campus quad where the statue will be located. The event is free and open to public.

In addition to the unveiling of the statue, an endowed scholarship honoring Johnson is being established by the University. The scholarship will build upon Johnson’s legacy as a pioneer in mathematics and will benefit West Virginia students majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) with emphasis on assisting talented individuals who are underrepresented in those fields.

Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, the highest award that can be bestowed upon a civilian. A native of White Sulphurs Springs, W. Va., Johnson first came to Institute at the age of 10 to attend the high school that used to be part of West Virginia State’s campus. After graduating from high school at age 15, she immediately enrolled for college classes at West Virginia State. Johnson excelled in her studies and graduated summa cum laude in 1937 at the age of 18 with bachelor’s degree in mathematics and French. Johnson’s pioneering work as a “computer” at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and later at NASA, has been widely recognized following publication of the book, “Hidden Figures,” and by the movie of the same name.

For more information, please contact Patricia Schumann, Vice President for University Advancement, at (304) 766-3021 or patricia.schumann@wvstateu.edu or visit https://connect.wvstateu.edu/katherinejohnson.

Follow West Virginia State University on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @WVStateU.

West Virginia State University is a public, land grant, historically black university, which has evolved into a fully accessible, racially integrated, and multi-generational institution, located in Institute, W.Va. As a “living laboratory of human relations,” the university is a community of students, staff, and faculty committed to academic growth, service, and preservation of the racial and cultural diversity of the institution. Its mission is to meet the higher education and economic development needs of the state and region through innovative teaching and applied research. For more information, visit www.wvsu.edu.

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