Image of Williams' <i>Technology and the Dream</i> Williams' Technology and the Dream
Technology and the Dream, Clarence Williams, 2001

Technology and the Dream

Clarence Williams


STS41-B Challenger Mission Presentation Board

Ronald McNair


“We have to walk over to the edge of our abilities and then move beyond that edge. We have to step past our place of comfort.” – Ronald McNair, 1985

On February 4, 1984, MIT alumnus Ronald McNair (PhD, Physics, 1976) blasted off into space aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. In his official flight kit was a small swatch of fabric with the letters MIT later incorporated into a special presentation board that he gave the Institute during a 1985 visit. McNair’s death in January 1986 when Challenger exploded shortly after launch stunned the MIT community. In a moving ceremony the following December, the Institute renamed Building 37 in his honor. For MIT administrator and professor Clarence Williams, McNair was one of the seminal figures whom he never had the chance to interview as part of his monumental oral history project, Technology and the Dream: Reflections on the Black Experience at MIT, 1941–1999. The collective candor of the 223 interviewees in Williams’ illuminating and influential volume continues to represent a profound gift to the Institute: the honest statement of a problem and the commitment to a solution in hopes of transforming MIT to the greater benefit of the community and to the larger endeavors of science and technology.

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