McNair Scholars Program
Dr. Ronald Ervin McNair, the second African American to fly in space, was born on October 12, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina. He graduated as valedictorian from Carver High School in 1967. In 1971, he graduated magna cum laude and received his bachelor’s degree in physics from North Carolina A&T State University (Greensboro). He received a Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976, at the age of 26. His academic and subsequent career successes, dimmed only by his untimely death, serve as a beacon to the current generation of college students who, for many reasons, may feel that graduate education in general and the doctoral degree in particular are inaccessible.
Dr. McNair was nationally recognized for his work in the field of laser physics and was selected by NASA from a pool of ten thousand applicants for the space shuttle program. He was also the recipient of many honorary degrees, fellowships and commendations. A sixth degree black belt in karate and an accomplished saxophonist, he was married to Cheryl Moore and had two children, Reginald Ervin and Joy Cheray.
Dr. McNair died on January 28, 1986 along with six other crew members in an explosion nine miles above the Atlantic Ocean aboard the space shuttle Challenger.
This page was last updated on: September 12, 2016