Challenger Astronaut's Dreams Live On

Every year the Ronald E. McNair Foundation's Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program enables 10 Oberlin juniors to spend the summer working one-on-one with a faculty mentor. The foundation's founder and president, Carl McNair, spoke with 70 Oberlinians--many of them McNair recipients--at the College's 5th Annual Senior Awards Banquet in April.

McNair created the foundation in memory of his brother, Ronald E. McNair, who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. Ronald McNair didn't hear the word doctorate very often while he was growing up, but he was determined to earn one, maintaining his resolve through frustrating times in an academic environment far removed from his rural upbringing. He persevered, becoming the first in his family to earn a bachelor's degree, then a PhD, and going on to fulfill many a young boy's dream of becoming an astronaut. The McNair Foun-dation helps make Ronald's dream a reality for low-income and first-generation students by developing and implementing educational programs that motivate, encourage, and support their academic aspirations.

McNair related some of the challenges Ronald faced while pursuing his goal--poverty, cultural obstacles, and racism among them. He urged Oberlin students to imitate his brother by setting goals and refusing to lose sight of them.

McNair recipients with the foundation's president. Left to right: Office of Undergraduate Research coordinator Che Gonzalez '96, Sarresa Richardson '99, Kathryn Roberts '99, Prentiss Slaughter '98, Samantha Sansevere '98, McNair, Monica Bielski '97, Aiha Ahmed '98, Susan Dennehy '99, and Jeff Cabusao '97.