Ronald E. McNair

Dr. Ronald E. McNair, the second African American to fly in space, was born on October 21, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina. He graduated as a class valedictorian from Carver High School in 1967. Four years later, in 1971, he received the bachelor's degree magna cum laude from North Carolina A&T State University. He received a Ph.D degree in physics from MIT in 1976.

He was nationally recognized for his work in the field of laser physics. Selected for the astronaut program in 1978, he was also the recipient of many honorary degrees, recommendations and fellowships. A sixth degree karate black belt holder and a highly accomplished saxophonist, Dr. Ronald McNair was the father of two children, Reginald Erwin and Joy Cheray.

Dr. McNair and six fellow astronauts died in a fiery explosion aboard the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986. The Ronald Erwin McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Award Program was authorized by Congress in 1986 in his honor to increase the number of college students from low income, underrepresented backgrounds pursuing doctoral degrees. It was also aimed at increasing the number of underrepresented faculty teaching in colleges and universities.

Dr. Ronald E. McNair's spirit lives on in his often cited words, "Before you can make a dream come true, you must first have one."