The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program is one of the eight federal TRIO programs designed to remove social, academic and cultural barriers to students’ higher education goals. The program honors Ronald E. McNair, the second African American to fly in space. After his death in the Challenger space shuttle accident in 1986, members of Congress provided funding for the McNair program.

Truman has been affiliated with the McNair program since 1992, and the University supports more than 30 scholars each year.

Who is Dr. Ronald McNair?

Dr. Ronald McNairBorn in Lake City, South Carolina, Ronald E. McNair (1950-1986) was inspired to work hard and persevere in his studies by his family and by a teacher who recognized his scientific potential and believed in him.

He graduated as valedictorian from Carver High School in 1967. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from North Carolina A&T State University (Greensboro) graduating magna cum laude. He then enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the age of 26, he earned his PhD in laser physics.

While working as a staff physicist with Hughes Research Laboratory, Dr. McNair soon became a recognized expert in laser physics. His many distinctions include being a Presidential Scholar (1971-74), a Ford Foundation Fellow (1971-74), a National Fellowship Fund Fellow (1974-75), and a NATO Fellow (1975). He was also a sixth degree black belt in karate and an accomplished saxophonist.

Because of his many accomplishments, he was selected by NASA for the space shuttle program in 1978. His first space shuttle mission launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center on February 3, 1984. Two years later he was selected to serve as mission specialist aboard the ill-fated U.S. Challenger space shuttle. He was killed instantly when the Challenger exploded one minute, thirteen seconds after it was launched. Dr. McNair was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

After his death, members of Congress provided funding for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. Their goal was to encourage low-income and first-generation college students, and students from historically underrepresented ethnic groups to expand their educational opportunities by enrolling in a Ph.D. program and ultimately pursue an academic career. This program is dedicated to the high standards of achievement inspired by Dr. McNair’s life.