Tonight, the University of South Carolina will introduce its aerospace education future by honoring one of its pioneers.
Darla Moore has pledged $5 million to create the Ronald McNair Center, for research and education in this growing industry in the state.
The widow of the late astronaut–who died in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger –will be recognized at an aerospace industry celebration at the Thomas Cooper library.
Cheryl McNair told South Carolina Radio Network that this type of research being done in South Carolina was a dream of her husband, a native of Lake City.
“Ron wanted to move back to South Carolina, actually was looking forward to it after his last flight, to come back and influence and inspire as many youth as he could and had interviews and was being considered for a position at the University of South Carolina, ” says McNair. “So, I believe with the naming of this aerospace center, it will do just that. It will send a message that other students can do something like this as well and they can achieve and go into the aerospace or any industry.”
By the age of 35, Ronald McNair, had a doctorate from MIT, and was the second African-American astronaut in U.S. history.
Cheryl McNair says she was surprised and honored when millionaire philanthropist Darla Moore insisted the center be named for her husband.
In Lake City, a museum and learning center are being built in honor of the late astronaut.
Cheryl McNair says he was always most proud of being recognized in his home state.
“When he spoke one time when he returned back, I believe it was the University of South Carolina, he said that to board the space shuttle and travelling at 17,500 miles a minute is a great thrill, but to come back amongst the warmth and reception and the honor is a thrill of equal magnitude. And I think he would feel the same at this time,” reflects McNair.
Along with celebrating the coming McNair Center, U.S.C. officials announced a new masters degree program in Aerospace Engineering and a relationship with Sheffield University in England, a prominent research school.