Seven people died when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on Jan. 28, 1986. One of those people was Ronald E. McNair.

On Thursday, Jan. 28, the West Virginia University Ronald E. McNair Scholars Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program will commemorate the anniversary of the explosion.

An information booth will be set up in the Mountainlair commons area from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to inform the community about the anniversary. Students in the program will also be collecting small items and writing cards to military personnel who are serving overseas.

Items needed include money for postage, shaving cream, soap, beef jerky, crackers and candy, among other things. Donors that leave their e-mail addresses will be entered into a drawing for two movie passes and McNair t-shirts.

“To remember Dr. Ronald E. McNair as a person who contributed a lot to his community through volunteer services, we want to do our part in carrying on his legacy,” said Betty Mei, assistant director of the McNair Scholars Program.

A well-rounded individual, McNair was an astronaut, researcher, sixth-degree black belt in karate and saxophonist.

After his death, Congress created the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program to honor McNair and encourage undergraduate students to enroll in graduate school to earn a doctoral degree. The program targets students from low-income, first-generation or under-represented groups.

WVU’s McNair Scholars Program was established in 1999 and has already produced two alumni with doctorates. Three more students are expected to complete their doctorates in 2010.

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CONTACT: Betty Mei, McNair Scholars Program