The McNAIR Center got off the ground in 2011 based on a pledge of $5 million by University of South Carolina alumna and benefactor Darla Moore, '75, business.
Moore, who is vice president of the investment firm Rainwater Inc., made the donation in memory of her fellow Lake City, S.C., native Ronald E. McNair.
Moore's generosity to the university over the years has included two major gifts totaling $70 million to the business school, which was named for her.
In 2012, USC announced a second $5 million pledge to the center, this one from Charleston businesswoman and philanthropist Anita Zucker.
Zucker is the daughter of Holocaust survivors who came to America in search of freedom and a new way of life. From a young age, she was influenced by her parents' dedication to family and community.
Zucker and her family are leaders in philanthropic support of education and communities in South Carolina.
As a former elementary school teacher, she knows the importance of an educated world.
Her $5 million gift to the University of South Carolina will create the Zucker Institute for Aerospace Innovation within the McNAIR Center.
Zucker is chairwoman and CEO of The InterTech Group, a diversified corporation that she founded with her late husband, Jerry Zucker.
The InterTech Group, with 15,000 employees, produces devices used in aerospace, aviation and power generation, as well as other products and services.
In recognition of her altruism, Anita Zucker has earned the state's highest civilian honor, the Order of the Palmetto.
Marva Smalls, a Florence native and USC graduate who is an executive vice president at Viacom and Nickelodeon, will donate $1 million on Monday to endow scholarships for the University of South Carolina’s new aerospace research program named after Challenger astronaut Ronald McNair.
Ms. Smalls said the scholarships will go to minority students from the state’s Pee Dee region majoring in computer science and engineering.
“Hopefully, we are creating the next generation of leaders and scientists,” said Smalls, 56. “This was a great chance to give back to my hometown.”
Like McNair, Smalls grew up in the Pee Dee, the northeast corner of the state that is rural outside of the Florence and the Myrtle Beach area. Smalls now works in New York but has homes in Charleston and Florence, where her 89-year-old mother lives.
Smalls said she wants to give Pee Dee students a chance to get the high-tech, high-paying jobs that come with the state’s growing aerospace business. Boeing opened its only jet manufacturing plant outside the Seattle area in North Charleston in 2011.
Smalls said she met McNair, a Lake City native killed in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986, while working as the chief of staff for then-U.S. Rep. Robin Tallon, a Florence Democrat.
“It will be a continuation of his legacy, and I believe that students will identify with him having come from a rural area,” she said. “We will create a new caliber of scholars that will come from the Pee Dee area.”