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University at Buffalo McNair Scholars Program

About Dr. Ronald E. McNair

Dr. McNair was born on October 21, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina. His mother taught elementary school and his father was a mechanic. As a child, Ronald McNair was a Boy Scout and played football and basketball. He was very bright and was advanced a grade. He graduated from secondary school a year early in 1967 and was named class valedictorian. He also served as Student Council President.

Dr. McNair graduated Magna Cum Laude from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 1971, receiving a bachelor’s degree in physics. He received his Ph.D. in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976, and honorary doctorate of science degrees from Morris College and the University of South Carolina. Dr. Ronald E. McNair was one of 11,000 people who applied to become an astronaut. He was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for the space shuttle program in 1978. Dr. McNair was the second African American astronaut to travel in space. He was a mission specialist on the successful February 3, 1984, Challenger flight. He died in the space shuttle accident on January 28, 1986, at the age of 35. That was Dr. McNair’s second journey into space, but the spacecraft exploded 73 seconds after lift-off. Dr. McNair logged a total of 191 hours in space as a mission specialist.

Those who knew Ronald McNair characterized him as fearless, determined, and accustomed to applying all available resources to any problem he faced. 

For more information, please contact the McNair Office:
220 Norton Hall