Skip to Main Navigation | Skip to Content


Dr. McNair's Profile


Dr. Ronald McNairThe McNair Scholars Program was named after Dr. Ronald E. McNair, the second African American to fly in space, and a victim of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster.

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 the recipient of three honorary doctorates and many commendations and awards.

Dr. McNair was born on October 21, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina. He graduated as valedictorian from Carver High School in 1967. In 1971, he received the bachelor's degree magna cum laude in physics from North Carolina A&T State University. He received a Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976, at the age of 26.

A sixth-degree belt in karate and an accomplished saxophonist, Dr. McNair was the father of two children. Dr. McNair and six other astronauts died in a fiery explosion aboard the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986.

                            Dr. Ronald E. McNair 


As a tribute to Dr. McNair, the United States Congress established funding for a new TRIO program - The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. Its purpose is to prepare first-generation, low-income college students and students from groups underrepresented in graduate education for doctoral study and to help these students fulfill their educational dreams.


 The crew of the space shuttle Challenger