Southeast Missouri State University

Ronald E. McNair

Ronald E. McNair was one of the first African-American astronauts and the second to travel in space.  Born October 21, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina.  Graduated from Carver High School, Lake City, South Carolina in 1967; received a bachelor of science degree in Physics from North Carolina A&T State University in 1971; and at the age of 26, a doctor of philosphy in Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976; presented an honorary doctorate of Science 1978; an honorary doctorate of science from the University of South Carolina in 1984.

While at MIT, Dr. McNair performed some of the earliest development of high pressure laser and molecular spectroscopy.  His experiments and applications provided new understanding for highly excited polyatomic molecules.

In 1986 at the age of 35, his remarkable life came to an end when the Challenger space shuttle exploded on lift-off into space, killing Dr. McNair and six other astronauts. In his honor, the U.S. Congress established the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program to encourage first-generation college students from financially and historically disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue graduate education.

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