Astronaut Ronald E. McNair to be Celebrated by N.C. A&T

01/24/2017 College of Engineering

GREENSBORO, N.C. (Jan. 24, 2017) -- For the past three decades, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has commemorated the life and legacy of alumnus Ronald E. McNair, who tragically died in the space shuttle Challenger disaster. The university will honor McNair once again this Friday, Jan. 27, in the Alumni-Foundation Event Center, during the 31st Annual Ronald E. McNair Commemorative Celebration.

The program will include greetings and presentations from university faculty, staff and administrators, city officials and community leaders and attendance by McNair Scholars and university constituents. Robin Coger, dean of the N.C. A&T College of Engineering, will deliver the keynote address.

As a child, McNair was determined about his education and academics. His brother shared how 9-year-old Ronald took it upon himself to walk into a South Carolina public library in 1959 and check out books. His zealous spirit convinced him it wouldn't be a problem despite the segregation laws that existed.

Although a small confrontation ensued, McNair left the library the victor, books in hand.

McNair's thirst for knowledge only deepened as he grew older. He graduated from N.C. A&T in 1971 with a B.S. in physics and went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned his Ph.D. in physics five years later.

McNair later began to study laser physics with leading authorities. He began conducting research on electo-optic laser modulation for satellite-to-satellite space communications, the construction of ultra-fast infrared detectors, ultraviolet atmospheric remote sensing and the scientific foundations of martial arts.

In 1978, McNair, one of the first African American astronauts, was selected as a mission specialist astronaut for the NASA space shuttle program. His first flight was completed Feb. 11, 1984. Two years later, he was aboard the Challenger for his second mission when it experienced fatal malfunctions upon takeoff. McNair died along with six other crew members on Jan. 28, 1986.

McNair has been honored with numerous posthumous awards and acclamations around the country. In 1988, Congress established the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, serving college students in preparation for attending graduate school and working toward their doctoral degrees. TRIO Programs at A&T facilitates the program, as well as others, to help low-income, first-generation students fulfill their academic, personal, economic and social goals.

The Ronald E. McNair Commemorative Celebration will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is free and open to the public. For more information about the program call 336-285-2705 or email bhaynes@ncat.edu.

For media inquiries please call 336-256-0863 or email tddixon1@ncat.edu.

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