"Before you can make a dream come true, you must first have one."
1986, in memory of Dr. Ronald E. McNair, the United States Congress established
the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, commonly known as
the McNair Scholars Program. The program was created to increase educational
opportunities to students who are from low-income, first-generation families,
and/or those who are from ethnic backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in
graduate education. It is funded through the Department of Education.
McNair's career as a scholar and astronaut stands as an inspiration to all
McNair program participants. Ronald E. McNair, the second African American to
fly in space, was born on October 12, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina. While
in junior high school, Dr. McNair was inspired by a teacher who recognized his
scientific potential and believed in him. He graduated as valedictorian from
Carver High School in 1967. In 1971, he received his bachelor's degree magna
cum laude in Physics from North Carolina A&T State University (Greensboro).
Five years later, in 1976, he earned a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology (MIT).
McNair’s many distinctions include: Presidential Scholar (1971-74), Ford
Foundation Fellow (1971-74), National Fellowship Fund Fellow (1974-75), and
NATO Fellow (1975). In 1978, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA) selected Dr. McNair as a candidate for the space shuttle program. After
completing a one-year special training and evaluation program, he became
qualified for assignment as a mission specialist astronaut.
first space shuttle mission launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center in
Florida on February 3, 1984. Two years later, Dr. McNair was selected by NASA
to serve as mission specialist aboard the ill-fated U.S. Challenger space shuttle.
He was killed instantly when the Challenger exploded one minute, thirteen
seconds after it was launched.
McNair's career as a scholar and mission specialist astronaut was abruptly
ended with his untimely death aboard the U.S. Challenger. His achievements,
however, were not limited to academia and those as an astronaut. He was a sixth
degree black belt in Karate and an accomplished saxophonist as well. Married to
Cheryl Moore, Dr. McNair was a devoted husband and a loving father to their two
children, Reginald Ervin and Joy Cheray.
lifelong commitment to scholarship lives on in the McNair scholars who are
selected each year to participate in the many McNair programs across the United
States. The McNair Scholars Program at Central Michigan University is dedicated
to preserving Dr. McNair's legacy of scholarship and accomplishment.