McNair Scholar benefactors and friends of the university
Janice McNair and the late Robert C. McNair have been champions of philanthropy for decades, giving generously to deserving causes while making education and medical research the cornerstones of their charitable giving. Contributions are made through The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, the Houston Texans Foundation and The Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation in Forest City, North Carolina. To date, they have contributed more than a half billion dollars to charity.
Robert McNair (Jan. 1, 1937 – Nov. 23, 2018), the founder, senior chairman and chief executive officer of the NFL’s Houston Texans, is best known in the business community as the founder of Cogen Technologies, which was the largest privately owned cogeneration company in the world when it was sold in 1999. He served as senior chairman of McNair Interests and owned Palmetto Partners Ltd. and RCM Financial Services LP, private investment entities.
He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and met his wife, then Janice Suber, while she was attending nearby Columbia College.
He was named Entrepreneur of the Decade by the Houston Technology Center and was awarded the James A. Baker III Prize for Excellence in Leadership by the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. McNair has been inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the Texas Business Hall of Fame and the Houston Hall of Fame. In 2018, McNair became the sixth recipient of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame’s Lamar Hunt Lifetime Achievement Award.
Committed to bringing an NFL team to Houston, McNair was awarded the 32nd NFL franchise in 1999, and the Houston Texans debuted in 2002. McNair’s leadership brought two Super Bowls to Houston’s NRG Stadium: Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 and Super Bowl LI in 2017.
Janice McNair shares her late husband’s vision and passion for helping others. She has been honored by numerous nonprofit organizations, including the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council in 2005, Houston Independent School District in 2008, Child Advocates in 2009, the Salvation Army in 2014 and the Prayer Institute in 2019. She serves as co-founder and senior chair of the Houston Texans and is senior chair of McNair Interests.
Together, the McNairs established McNair Scholars programs to recruit the best and brightest students and faculty to the University of South Carolina, Columbia College, Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the Menninger Clinic, Texas Children’s Hospital and the Texas Heart Institute. Their contributions to academic medical research are leading to discoveries in the fields of Type 1 diabetes, cancer and the neurosciences.
In 2015, the McNairs began establishing McNair Centers for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise at Rice University, the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Houston Baptist University, the University of South Carolina and Northwood University in Michigan. The McNairs chaired the American Cancer Society’s “Hope Lodge Houston” capital campaign and co-chaired Texas Children’s Hospital’s “Promise Campaign.”
The McNair Foundation’s gifts helped build McNair Field in Forest City, North Carolina and created a memorial for Mother Emanuel Nine at Charleston. Their love of community is evident throughout the city of Houston, including McNair Hall at Rice University, the McNair Foundation Jogging Trail, McNair Asian Elephant Habitat and the addition of the African Forest at the Houston Zoo, United Way’s 2-1-1 Center, McNair Gallery and Education Court at the Museum Fine Arts Houston, Houston Parks Bayou Greenways 2020, Houston Baptist University’s McNair Hall and McNair Plaza and Pro-Vision’s McNair Urban Farm and McNair Football and Track Field. When Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area in 2017, the McNairs stepped forward immediately and gave $3 million to the United Way of Greater Houston for relief efforts and helped restore the Houston Grand Opera.
Bob and Janice McNair’s generosity hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2015, Bob was named a “Living Legend” by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. In 2014, they were presented UNICEF’s inaugural Margaret Alkek Williams Humanitarian Award and Houston Baptist University’s President’s Award, followed by the "Lombardi Honors Humanitarians of the Year” Award in 2017. In November 2018, they received Houston Baptist University’s Founders Medal. The McNair Foundation will receive the Scouting…Vale la Pena Service Award from the Sam Houston Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America in 2019.
The McNairs have called Houston home since 1960. They have four children, 16 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.