Darla Moore donates $5 million for center
University of South Carolina alumna and financier Darla Moore announced a $5 million gift Thursday (March 24) to establish a USC center for aerospace innovation and research to support the Palmetto State’s burgeoning aerospace industry.
The center will be named for the late Ronald E. McNair, a Lake City native who became one of NASA’s first black astronauts and who was the second African-American to fly in space. His career was cut short when the Challenger space shuttle, on which he was flying, exploded in January 1986.
“I want to name this for a person who demanded excellence not only for himself but for everyone around him, who is an American hero, an American hero from South Carolina,” said fellow Lake City native Moore. “This was not a wealthy man. This was an excellent man. This was an incredibly intelligent man.”
McNair was nationally recognized for his work in the field of laser physics and was selected as one of 35 candidates from a pool of 10,000 for the astronaut program in 1978. He earned a doctorate in physics from MIT.
USC President Harris Pastides said Moore’s generosity exemplifies her commitment to quality and to advancing the state’s economy. It is a wonderful recognition of a man whose explorer spirit and passion for excellence have served as an inspiration for millions of young Americans.
“Ron McNair was a courageous man and a South Carolinian,” Pastides said. “An aerospace center that will help to create jobs and opportunities for generations of this state’s citizens is a fitting tribute to him.”
Pastides said McNair and Moore represent what is best about South Carolinians.
“Although Ron McNair and Darla Moore grew up in different circumstances in the same small town in South Carolina, they represent what is best about the people of our state: A refusal to accept the status quo, a can-do spirit and a selfless commitment to advancing ideas, knowledge and innovation,” Pastides said.
The Ronald E. McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research (McNAIR) at USC will hone South Carolina’s competitiveness in attracting and securing its stake in the nation’s aerospace knowledge economy.
The center’s activities are expected to focus on three distinct areas: basic research and development of novel materials and devices; applied research in support of advanced manufacturing tools and processes; and development of a business and economic model that will build and support the Palmetto State’s growing aerospace cluster through education, research and development.
USC Provost Michael Amiridis said the center will expand economic opportunities for graduates and the state.
“The presence of a ready workforce will be a major advantage for South Carolina in its efforts to attract more companies associated with the aerospace field.”