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photo of Ronald Erwin McNair

In honor of Dr. Ronald E. McNair

Dr. Ronald McNair was born in Lake City, South Carolina and the son of an auto mechanic. McNair found his love of learning at a young age and continued to dream beyond the stars. He achieved early success in the segregated public schools which he attended and excelled as both a student and an athlete. His perseverance in the face of poverty and prejudice provided him with the resilience and aspirational capital to earn his bachelor’s degree in physics from North Carolina A&T State University in 1971 and five years later, at age 26, his Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. McNair became a nationally recognized expert in laser physics and in 1978 was selected for participation in NASA’s space shuttle program, becoming the second African American astronaut in U.S. history. He served as a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Challenger and unfortunately died along with the rest of its crew when the space shuttle exploded nine miles above the Atlantic on January 28, 1986.

His achievements were not limited to academia and NASA. He was a loving father to Joy and Reginald McNair, a fifth-degree black belt in karate and an accomplished saxophonist.

The McNair Scholars program is dedicated to preserving Dr. McNair’s legacy of scholarship and accomplishments.

​“Whether or not you reach your goals in life depends entirely on how well you prepare for them and how badly you want them. You're eagles! Stretch your wings and fly to the sky!” - Ronald E. McNair​​

Listen to the StoryCorps podcast called Eyes on the Stars about Ronald E. McNair.

Page last updated: June 29, 2020