Howard University
Middle School of Mathematics and Science (MS)²
Graduates First Class

Kerry-Ann Hamilton
Media Relations Manager



Photos by Kerry-Ann Hamilton
Honor student Tekiah Jones listens attentively during the inaugural graduation exercise for the
Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science.


Washington, D.C. (June 8, 2008) - After three years of tackling tough science and advanced mathematics classes, “A” student Ashley Freeman and more than 100 of her classmates graduated on Friday, June 6 as the inaugural class of the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science (MS)² .

Freeman was accepted to one of the top academic high schools in the District - Benjamin Banneker High School. Her classmates were also accepted at competitive high schools in the Washington D.C. area including McKinley Tech, Georgetown Day School, Gonzaga, The George School and St. Johns College.

“This is a proud and defining moment in the history of the middle school and Howard University,” said Marie C. Johns, (MS)² Board Chair and University Trustee. “On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to congratulate this historic class and express a sincere thank you to all those who made this possible.”

(MS)² opened its doors in the fall of 2005 as the first charter school established by a university in the Washington metropolitan area. Today, it remains a school of many “firsts” – the latest accolade a class of 103 students who aspire to be engineers, doctors, and scientists.

Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, first appointed to the Frederick P. Rose Directorship of the Hayden Planetarium in 1996 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, was the graduation orator to the young scholars.

During his remarks, Tyson charged students to grasp mathematics and science as they are fundamental skills. He also made the school name an equation. "E=(MS)², excellence equals (MS)²," Tyson said.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson inspires the
Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science Class of 2008

Tyson was only 9-years-old when he first viewed the universe while at the Hayden Planetarium. This visit changed his life and shaped his path toward astrophysics. During the Howard University 2008 commencement exercise, he was awarded a Doctor of Science honoris causa for his exemplary achievements in his field. He is the recipient of nine honorary doctorates and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal.

Josiah Christian, 15, is one of the (MS)² ’s many success stories. When Christian started, he was performing below grade level in the 6th grade, and was in need of Special Education services. However, due to his diligent effort, he no longer needed his IEP and he is graduating as an honors student.

“When I grow up I want to be an astronomer, so I really admire Dr. Tyson and all that he’s been able to achieve as a Black man,” said Christian, who will attend the prestigious Principia Upper School (boarding) in St. Louis, Mo. “I look up to him and his accomplishments are amazing, but when I become a professional I want to even surpass him.”

The achievements of the Middle School and this class are numerous including blue ribbons in national competitions. The dedication and hard work of the students and staff led to the fulfillment of national benchmarks. The April 2007 assessment ranked (MS)² among only 10 of the District’s 50 charter schools to make AYP in mathematics and reading.

“Together we are responsible for developing the whole child, but with emphasis on the outcomes that develop naturally from exposure to mathematics and science – academic independence, creative problem solving, exploration and discovery, and conceptual learning and understanding,” said Sue White, Head of School. “Our class of 2008 have honed these skills and we will track their success in high school and beyond.”


Congratulations to all of our students.
You have worked so hard to reach this significant milestone.


Address delivered by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

(MS)² opened its doors three years ago to an inaugural sixth-grade class of 120 students who came from every quadrant of the inner city. Today, these students are eighth graders, serving as role models for their sixth- and seventh-grade schoolmates, and preparing to go on to high school. Our first graduation ceremony will be held on June 6th. Our students will be honored to have their first graduation address delivered by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Dr. Tyson is an internationally renowned PBS star, author, museum director and exceptional public intellectual. For his exemplary achievements, he was awarded the Degree of Doctor of Science at Howard University's 2008 Commencement, an honor presented by (MS)² Board Chair and University Trustee, Marie C. Johns.

Chair Marie C. Johns, Trustee Earl G. Graves, and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

A childhood glimpse of the Moon through binoculars helped steer Neil deGrasse Tyson towards his lifelong passion for science, space exploration, and unraveling the universe's far flung mysteries. Eventually, that closer look at another world also led Tyson to his role on The Planetary Society's Board of Directors, serving first as Vice President for three years and now as Chairman of the Board.

An astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History and the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Tyson remains close to his hometown roots in New York City where he graduated from the Bronx High School of Science. Tyson earned his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia.

While Tyson has focused his early research primarily on stellar evolution and galactic structure, he has also devoted considerable energy to educating the public. Tyson recently hosted the four-part television series Origins on PBS and has written numerous books on the universe and humanity's place within it, including his own memoir, The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist. Tyson is also a monthly essayist for Natural History magazine with the column, "Universe."

Tyson's professional research interests include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our Milky Way, working with data from the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as from telescopes in California, New Mexico, Arizona, and the Andes Mountains of Chile.

In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Tyson to serve on a 12-member commission that studied the Future of the US Aerospace Industry. The final report was published in 2002 and contained recommendations (for Congress and for the major agencies of the government) that would promote a thriving future of transportation, space exploration, and national security.

In 2004, Tyson was once again appointed by President Bush to serve on a commission, this time focusing on the Implementation of the United States Space Exploration Policy, dubbed the "Moon, Mars, and Beyond" commission.

A man of many parts, Tyson has had an asteroid named after him – 13123 Tyson.