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      USC gets multi-million dollar gift for McNair aerospace center

      Pastides announced the $5 million dollar gift from Anita Zucker at a news conference Thursday morning.

      COLUMBIA (WACH/AP) -- University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides says a generous gift from a South Carolina businesswoman and philanthropist will provide support for the school's new research center for the aerospace industry.

      Pastides announced the $5 million dollar gift from Anita Zucker at a news conference Thursday morning. He says the gift will specifically support innovation in aerospace education and workforce development.

      "I have had a long working relationship with the faculty at USC and can attest firsthand to the impact of their research. it has proven to be a tremendous benefit to our engineers and helped to improve our products," said Zucker, chairman and CEO of The InterTech Group, owner of PBI Performance Products. "The growth of South Carolina's economy, especially in high-tech fields, is dependent upon the development of a highly educated workforce. I'm excited to be a part of supporting the expansion of aerospace education in our state and pleased to support the McNair Center as a leader in that endeavor."

      The McNair Center is named after Ronald McNair, the Lake City native who was among the astronauts who died in the space shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986.

      Zucker's donation endow a new professorship in USC's McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research.

      "Anita's generosity and shared vision that South Carolina can advance the future of air and space flight has enabled us to recruit a world=renowned expert to lead our efforts," said Pastides.

      The McNair Chair has attracted Zafer Gurdal, from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands to serve as technical director of the McNair Center.

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      The center was established after USC benefactor, former trustee and Lake City native Darla Moore provided a $5 million gift toward its creation.

      Moore says she is "truly excited by the announcements" and adds that "these are the first steps in building the Ron McNair Center into a permanent, world-class aerospace research, and catalytic center for nurturing, growing and supporting the aerospace cluster in South Carolina."

      (The Associates Press contributed to this report.)