Loyola University Chicago

McNair Scholars Program

Student Academic Services

Program History

Dr. Ronald E. McNair

Dr. Ronald E. McNair

"Whether or not you reach your goals in life depends on how well you prepare for them and how badly you want them. You're eagles! Stretch your wings and fly to the sky". -Dr. Ronald E. McNair

The Federally funded TRIO Programs are direct results of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 from which the Higher Education Act of 1965 emerged. That legislation, signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson, in response to his war on poverty, was created to improve education through federal intervention. The first TRIO Program, Upward Bound has been joined by seven other programs over the years, one of which is the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program (the McNair Scholars Program).

“…I made up my mind that this Nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American." -President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965

The McNair Scholars Program was named to commemorate the academic achievements of Dr. Ronald Erwin McNair, Physicist and one of seven crew members who perished in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Dr. McNair was born October 21, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina to Carl and Pearl McNair. He attended North Carolina A&T State University where he graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. degree in physics in 1971. He then matriculated at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he earned his Ph.D. in physics in 1976 at the age of 25. Dr. McNair was awarded three honorary doctoral degrees and was associated with many professional organizations including the American Optical Society, the American Physical Society (APS), and the APS Committee on Minorities in Physics.

Dr. McNair was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in January 1978 and completed a year-long training and evaluation period, which resulted in his assignment as a Mission Specialist astronaut on Space Shuttle flights. Dr. McNair participated in two space shuttle flights aboard the Challenger, logging a total of 191 hours in space during his first flight.

Dr. McNair was not only an astute scientist, he was also an accomplished saxophonist, black belt in Karate, and earned several awards in his lifetime. Sometime after his demise, Illinois Senator, Paul Simon introduced a bill to create a program in Dr. McNair’s memory. In 1989, the U.S. Congress provided funding for the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program in recognition of his accomplishments. The McNair Scholars Program is designed to increase the number of low-income, first-generation and underrepresented minority college students who pursue and complete doctoral degrees and is dedicated to excellence in teaching, research, service, and practice.

The Loyola University Chicago McNair Scholars Program is funded by the US Department of Education as part of the Federal TRIO program and is overseen at Loyola University Chicago by the Office of the Provost.