COLUMBIA — The University of South Carolina is receiving a $1 million donation for scholarships at its new aerospace program.
Florence native and USC graduate Marva Smalls is donating the money to the program names after space shuttle astronaut Ronald McNair of Lake City, The State newspaper reported.
Smalls, 56, is an executive vice president at Viacom and Nickelodeon. The scholarships will go to minority students from the Pee Dee majoring in computer science and engineering.
“Hopefully, we are creating the next generation of leaders and scientists,” said Smalls. “This was a great chance to give back to my hometown.”
She 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, who was 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.
Smalls is the third woman to donate more than $1 million to the USC aerospace program.
Darla Moore, a Lake City financier who is USC’s biggest benefactor, made a $5 million donation for the research center in 2011. Anita Zucker, a Charleston businesswoman who is the richest person in the state, gave $5 million last year.
The McNair Center opened this fall, offering graduate programs in aerospace engineering and engineering management, and an undergraduate minor in aerospace engineering. The programs have 22 students.