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Challenger astronaut honored at school dedication

November 8, 2018 GMT

Alvin Independent School District staff, students, school board members, parents and community members filled the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Junior High School cafeteria Oct. 30 in Pearland for a special ceremony honoring the astronaut for whom the school is named.

McNair was a mission specialist in the crew that was killed in the Jan. 28, 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion. Nationally recognized for his work in laser physics, McNair became the second black American to make a flight into space in 1984.

McNair’s widow, Cheryl McNair, and daughter, Joy, joined astronauts, family and friends at the dedication, which included performances by the school’s girls choir and symphonic band.

Student Nathan Etheridge shared why he suggested McNair’s name for the new school, which is at 2950 Kingsley Drive, according to a press release from Alvin ISD.

“Since childhood, Dr. McNair stood out among many great astronauts because of his commonalities with my parents and myself,” Etheridge said.

Alvin ISD board president Nicole Tonini highlighted the district’s ongoing partnership with the McNair family.

“We are excited to see how Principal (Craig) Rhodes and the staff at the campus have incorporated Dr. McNair’s love of science, innovation and excellence into the culture of the school,” Tonini said.

The board presented Cheryl McNair with a plaque to serve as her own key to the building, and Rhodes unveiled a portrait of her husband.

“From the moment I was named principal of McNair Junior High, I knew I wanted to honor Dr. McNair in every way possible,” Rhodes said. “One quote from him has stuck with me: ‘Whether or not you reach your goals in life depends entirely on how well you prepare for them and how badly you want them. You’re eagles! Stretch your wings and fly to the sky.’”

Dr. Ronald E. McNair Junior High is Alvin ISD’s seventh junior high school.