Dr. Ronald E. McNair

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Ronald E. McNair


    Ronald Erwin McNair was born on october 21, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina, to Carl and Pearl McNair.  Although he grew up amidst crushing poverty, McNair always exhibited a deep thirst for scientific knowledge.  In 1971, he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Physics degree from the North Carolina A&T Sate University.  In 1976, he earned his Ph.D. degree in Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and went on to work with the Hughes Research Laboratory where he became recognized as an expert in the field of laser physics.

    In addition to his academic achievements, Dr. McNair received three honorary doctorate degrees and many fellowships and commendations.  These included Presidential Scholar, 1967-1971; Ford Foundation Scholar, 1971-1974; National Fellowship Fund Fellow, 1974-1975; Omega Psi Phi Scholar of the Year, 1975; Distinguished National Scientist, National Society of Black Professional Engineers, 1979; and Friend of Freedom Award, 1981.  He also held a fifth degree black belt in karate and was an accomplished jazz saxophonist.

    Dr. McNair realized his dream of becoming an astronaut in 1978 when he was selected from a pool of ten thousand applicants for the NASA space shuttle program and became the second African-American to fly in space.  After his death aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1986, Congress approved funding for the Ronald E. McNair  Post-Baccalaureate   Achievement Program, which is dedicated to the support and promotion of the high standards of achievement exemplified by McNair.