Ronald Erwin McNair, Ph.D. was born October 21, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina.
North Carolina A&T State University,
graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. degree in physics in 1971.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
graduated with a Ph.D. in laser physics in 1976.
Energy Absorption and Vibrational Heating in Molecules Following Intense Laser Excitation.
McNair soon became a recognized expert in laser physics while working as a staff physicist with Hughes Research Laboratory. He was selected by NASA for the space shuttle program in 1978 and was a mission specialist aboard the 1984 flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
Besides his academic achievements, McNair received three honorary doctoral degrees: an honorary doctorate of laws from North Carolina A &T State University in 1978; an honorary doctorate of science from Morris College in 1980; and an honorary doctorate of science from the University of South Carolina in 1984. Along with many fellowships and commendations.
These distinctions include:
McNair also held a fifth degree black belt in karate and was an accomplished jazz saxophonist. He was married and had a son and a daughter.
After his death in the US Challenger Space Shuttle accident in January 1986, members of Congress provided funding for the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program to encourage income eligible and first generation college students, and students from groups historically underrepresented in graduate school to expand their educational opportunities and to pursue graduate studies.
This program is dedicated to the high standards of achievement inspired by Dr. McNair's life.