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McNair Scholars Ronald McNair Bio

Ronald E. McNair

Ronald E. McNair

 

Dr. Ronald E. McNair was born on Oct. 21, 1950 in Lake City, S.C.. During his youth, McNair had aspirations of becoming a scientist. He had always enjoyed academic success.

McNair, among other things, was valedictorian of his high school class and accepted into North Carolina A&T University, where in 1971 he graduated with a B.S. degree in physics. In 1976, he received his Ph.D. in quantum electronics and laser technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass.

In addition to his numerous academic honors, Dr. McNair was an accomplished saxophone player and was a fifth degree black belt in karate. At MIT, Dr. McNair participated in various scholarly projects that put him closer to his ultimate career as an astronaut. He likewise studied abroad in France, where he published several works.

In 1978, Dr. McNair was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA. In 1979, he qualified for an assignment on the Space Shuttle Challenger as a mission specialist astronaut. Dr. McNair went on to log 191 hours in space.

On the tragic morning of Jan. 28, 1986, Dr. McNair was one of seven individuals aboard the Challenger who met an untimely death. In the spirit of this great man and his remarkable achievements, the United States Congress named a fellowship program in Dr. McNair's honor—the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program.