Who was Ronald E. McNair?
Ronald Erwin McNair was born October 21, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina to Carl and Pearl McNair. He graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from North Carolina A&T State University in 1971. He earned a doctor of philosophy degree in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976. He was also a 5th degree black belt Karate instructor and a performing jazz saxophonist, and enjoyed running, boxing, football, playing cards, and cooking.
As a physicist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. McNair performed some of the earliest development of chemical HF/DF and high-pressure CO lasers. Following graduation from MIT in 1976, he became a staff physicist with Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California. His assignments included the development of laser technologies for satellite-to-satellite space communications, the construction of ultra-fast infrared detectors, ultraviolet atmospheric remote sensing, and the scientific foundations of the martial arts.
He was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in January 1978, and flew as a mission specialist in 1984. Dr. McNair died on January 28, 1986, during the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.
After his death, members of Congress provided funding for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. The goal of this effort is to encourage minority students and students whose parents do not have college degrees to enroll in graduate studies. This program is dedicated to the high standard of achievement his life represented; and it also supports Marian University's mission to provide access and equity in the fulfillment of life-long learning.
"Whether or not you reach your goals in life depends entirely on how well you prepare for them and how badly you want them."
-- Ronald E. McNair, Ph.D.