While University officials are not certain because the university does not keep records of its valedictorians' race, Katie Washington, a biological sciences major from Gary, Ind., is believed to be the first black person to achieve the prestigious honor at Notre Dame University. The school's web site reports that Washington has been named valedictorian of the 2010 University of Notre Dame graduating class
and will present the valedictory address at the May 16 commencement.
Employees in the campus news office and the University Archives said they don’t know of any previous black valedictorian. An
officer of the Black Alumni of Notre Dame group said that group is unaware of any previous black valedictorian.
“I am humbled,” said Washington to the Northwest Indiana Times. "I am in a mode of gratitude and thanksgiving right now.”
Washington, who earned a 4.0 grade-point average, was also valedictorian at her high school, West Side High School. She has
conducted research on lung cancer at Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) Laboratory and performed genetic studies in Notre Dame’s Eck
Institute for Global Health on the mosquito that carries dengue and yellow fever. Washington is also the co-author of a research
paper with David Severson, a professor of biological sciences.
The scholar's mother, Jean Tomlin, a nurse, told a Chicago news program that, "Katie works so hard. I told her when she went to
Notre Dame, 'You are representing your family, your church and the city of Gary. Make us proud.'"
Washington comes from a family of high achievers. Her father is a doctor, her sister is a nurse, she has a brother who is
completing his residency and a brother who works for British Petroleum.
Washington directs the Voices of Faith Gospel Choir at Notre Dame, is a mentor/tutor for the Sister-to-Sister program at
Washington High School in South Bend and serves as student coordinator of the Center for Social Concerns’ "Lives in the Balance:
Youth Violence and Society Seminar."
The young woman has been accepted to Harvard and four other schools, but plans to pursue a joint M.D./Ph.D program at Johns
Hopkins University, according to nwitimes.com.