On a day devoted to honoring the McNair Scholars at Bloomfield College, the program welcomed Carl McNair, the brother of the man for whom the program is named and the president and CEO of McNair Achievement Programs, LLC and Founder of the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Foundation.
The McNair Scholars program, formally known as the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, is named for Dr. Ronald McNair, an astronaut aboard the ill-fated Challenger space shuttle that exploded moments after lift-off in 1986. Dr. McNair was the second African-American to fly into space. Coming from humble beginnings, his legacy is achievement through higher and graduate education.
The McNair Scholars Program has been on the Bloomfield College campus for three years and currently is running at full capacity. The program helps to place students in graduate research summer programs and they are expected to present their findings at conferences nationwide. The program also assists students with graduate record exams preparation and applications to graduate school.
The day brought together current and graduated McNair Scholars as well as Scholars form other colleges and universities. During the luncheon, keynote speaker Dr. Patricia Lespinassse, post-doctoral fellow at Rutgers University and McNair alumna, spoke to the students about knowing themselves and the process of discovery. “Once I became a McNair Scholar, I knew what I was to become,” she explained. “McNair Scholars are proud to identify ourselves as such because it means we value scholarship, which defines us.”
After the students presented their research, a welcome reception for Mr. Carl McNair was held to allow the students to greet him informally and tell their own stories. While the Scholars’ backgrounds were varied, they all saw the value of education as a way to satisfy their own intellect and move into their fields of interest. All the Scholars are from low-income families and are first-generation college students as well as from underrepresented populations. Their stories were filled with determination, perseverance, and humor. Mr. McNair noted that there is always a story behind the glory; a statement that resonated with the Scholars.
President Levao addressed the assembly at dinner noting that he was honored to be among the McNair Scholars and how impressive they are. “I hope that once you achieve your PhDs that you will consider sharing your knowledge through academia and perhaps even return to Bloomfield College,” he said.
You can view pictures of the event here.
Mr. McNair told the Scholars and their guests that nothing honors his brother and family more than to see the McNair Scholars achieve. “This was going to be Ronald’s last mission as he had accepted a professorship,” McNair explained. “We wanted to carry his legacy of scholarship forward by establishing the McNair Scholars Program. Bloomfield College truly represents the mission of the program.”
The McNair Scholars Program currently resides at 201 colleges nationwide, including Puerto Rico, and has graduated more than 60,000 scholars since its inception in 1987. More than 600 McNair Scholars have gone on to earn doctoral degrees and thousands have earned masters and professional degrees.
McNair cautioned the Scholars about dream stealers, those who would downplay their achievements or question the validity of higher and graduate education. “The most dangerous dream stealer of all, though, is the one in the mirror. Don’t let self-doubt stop you from pursuing your dream – that is why we have this community of scholars that support one another. I am here to tell you – you are the chosen!”
“As you go through life, remember that you are Bloomfield College McNair Scholars and that makes you better than good enough,” he encouraged the group.