BATON ROUGE, La (NBC33) – As the nation pauses to remember the 25th anniversary of the day the Challenger shuttle exploded on live on television, one program at LSU continues to keep the name of one of the heroic astronauts aboard the faulty spacecraft, alive.
Seven perished in the flames of the flight that lasted less than two minutes. Of them was Ronald McNair. To honor him, the US Department of Education started the Ronald E. McNair Program.
The goal is to increase the number of PhD’s by underrepresented minorities. Since its start back in 1992, the program has helped more than 40 students get a PhD.
Program director Connie Stelly explains why the man who the program is named after is so important.
“He did represent a large population of people who weren’t given liberties to go to college and he did something that not many people with his background did by going to M.I.T., graduating, and waiting twelve years to be an astronaut,” she explained.
Overall, more than two-thirds of LSU McNair alumni have earned a graduate degree.