NASA astronaut Dr. Yvonne Cagle will be the keynote speaker Saturday, Aug. 25, during a dedication and statue unveiling ceremony at West Virginia State University (WVSU) honoring former NASA mathematician and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Katherine Johnson.

The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. on the WVSU campus quad near Dawson Hall and Cole Complex. The event is free and open to the public.

“We are honored to have a true American hero in Dr. Yvonne Cagle join us as we celebrate the creation of an endowed scholarship, and unveil a statue honoring one of West Virginia State University’s most celebrated graduates, Katherine Johnson,” said WVSU President Anthony L. Jenkins.

Selected by NASA in April 1996, Cagle reported to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, located in Houston, in August 1996.  She completed two years of training and evaluation, and is qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist.  She was initially assigned to the Astronaut Office Operations Planning branch, supporting the Space Shuttle Program and International Space Station, followed by a special assignment to NASA’s Ames Research Center.

Prior assignments include the lead ARC Astronaut Science Liaison and Strategic Relationships Manager for Google and other Silicon Valley Programmatic Partnerships.  Cagle’s work is preserving historic NASA space legacy data while, simultaneously, galvanizing NASA’s lead in global mapping, sustainable energies, green initiatives and disaster preparedness.

Cagle is a consulting professor for Stanford University’s Department of Cardiovascular Medicine and to the Department of Electrical Engineering, where she has conducted and published research on various biotechnologies.

In 2017, Cagle escorted Katherine Johnson onto the stage of the 89th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Calif.
In addition to Cagle, Saturday’s ceremony will also feature remarks from Joylette Hylick and Katherine Moore, Johnson’s daughters, as well as musical performances by the State Singers and the Montclaire String Quartet.

The life-sized bronze statue depicting Johnson during her years as a mathematician at NASA was created by West Virginia sculptor Frederick Hightower, an alumnus of WVSU. During Saturday’s ceremony, six of Johnson’s grandchildren will pull back a veil to reveal the statue.

In addition to the unveiling of the statue on Saturday, 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. The first two recipients of the Johnson Scholarship will be announced Saturday during the ceremony.

Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, the highest award that can be bestowed upon a civilian. A native of White Sulphur 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 degrees 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

Originally by Jack Bailey for West Virginia State University Communications