University College

About Ronald E. McNair

“Before You Can Make a Dream Come True, You Must First Have One”

Ronald E. McNair

Ronald Ervin McNair, the second African American to fly in space, was born on October 21, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina to Carl and Pearl McNair. In 1967, McNair graduated from Carver High School in South Carolina. He attended North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, where, in 1971, he graduated magna cum laude with a BS degree in physics. In 1976 he earned his Ph.D. degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After gaining national recognition as a physicist at Hughes Research Laboratories, Ronald McNair was one of 35 applicants selected from a pool of ten thousand for NASA’s space shuttle program. In 1984 McNair became a mission specialist aboard the flight STS-11 of the shuttle Challenger, orbiting the earth 122 times. He was also a sixth degree black belt in karate and an accomplished jazz saxophonist.

On the morning of January 28, 1986, McNair’s second space flight ended in tragedy when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after take-off. McNair was only 36 and is survived by his wife Cheryl Moore and their two children Reginald Ervin and Joy Cheray.

After his death in the Challenger explosion, the U.S. Congress named the newly established Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program for Ronald E. McNair to encourage undergraduate students to enroll in graduate studies in order to earn a doctoral degree. The program targets low-income, first-generation and students from under-represented groups. This program is dedicated to the high standards of achievement inspired by Dr. McNair’s life.