The Life & Legacy of Dr. Ronald McNair

Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challanger Space Shuttle Explosion

Syed Ahad Hussain, Senior Staff Writer

Continuing astronaut Ronald McNair’s legacy of scholarship and involvement in higher education, NEIU participates in the federally funded Ronald McNair Scholars Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. The purpose of the program is to prepare low-income, first generation and minority undergraduates for graduate study to increase the number of such students who complete their doctoral degrees.

McNair, born in Lake City, S.C., on Oct. 21, 1950, had a mother who drove him 600 miles a week for his elementary education. He picked cotton and cucumbers, and tended tobacco fields growing up, he learned to read by age three, and went on to become an academic advocate and astronaut. “I gained qualities in that cotton field, I got tough. I learned to endure,” McNair recalls.

“I think that the scholars program is very meaningful for the students who have higher academic goals, and it acts as a support system which helps them achieve those goals,” said Dr. Kim Sanborn, Director of NEIU’s McNair Scholars Program.

“79 percent of our participants go to the graduate school right after they graduate. Students need this kind of support because most of them are first generation and low income students, so they don’t necessarily have family support.”

“It’s nice for them to have support of our program, they meet with peers with whom they can talk about their aspirations and challenges they have,” said Sanborn, “So far we have no one who has received a PhD because we are in our seventh year, so it’s too early for that, we are anxiously awaiting our first PhD, maybe in a year and a half we’ll have one.”

“To become a successful scholar, students need a high GPA, as well as a good GRE score, and that’s where most students fall down because they didn’t always have a good GRE score, a reason for this could be the fact that they mostly come from Chicago public schools and they tend to be a little unprepared after the school,” says Sanborn. “They also need good letters of recommendation, and research experience helps. Being a McNair scholar means a lot because it’s a nationally recognized program, and there are 194 programs in the U.S. All of the graduate schools know about the McNair Scholars Program and NEIU participants are always considered by them.

“It’s been great working for the program,” said Sanborn, “I have always worked as an advocate for the minority and underprepared students, so this was a good fit for me, and I am really happy that they selected me for the position. But we had to start from nothing and now we have two other trio Student Support Service (S.S.S) programs running and working with us because their student profile is similar to us.”

The McNair program has been met with great success with funding across 194 institutions within the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Funding has increased over the years as participants and institutions enrolled in the program continue to grow. Interested students can visit the program’s official website,