Meet Robert and Janice McNair
Robert C. McNair lived in the Harris community and graduated from Cool Springs High School in 1954, where he was an outstanding athlete and student leader. He continued his education and furthered his leadership skills at the University of South Carolina, where he was the president of the student body in his senior year. While in Columbia SC, Bob met his future wife, Janice Suber.
After a successful career in the auto and truck leasing business, Bob started Cogen Technologies in 1983. Cogen Technologies, Inc. headquartered in Houston, Texas, is one of the largest non-utility co-generators of electrical and thermal energy in the United States and is currently expanding to foreign markets. In 1999, Bob sold Cogen Technologies to Enron. Today, McNair retains ownership in power plants in New York and West Virginia. McNair now serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The McNair Group, a financial and real estate firm that is headquartered in Houston, Texas. He is also the owner of Palmetto Partners, Ltd., a private investment company that manages the McNairs' public and private equity investments, and is Chairman of the McNair Foundation. In June 2000, McNair formed a biotechnology investment firm, Cogene Biotech Ventures, where he serves as company chairman. Committed to bringing a National Football League team to the city of Houston, McNair formed Houston NFL Holdings in 1998. On October 6, 1999, the NFL announced that the 32nd NFL franchise had been awarded to McNair. His Houston Texans debuted in 2002.
Bob and Janice have always taken their roles as Christian stewards very seriously and after Cogen's initial success, decided to give back some of the fruits of their labor to the community where Bob was raised. On Christmas Eve of 1988, Bob and Janice called Chuck Flack, Bob's life-long friend in Forest City, to explore the possibilities of establishing a scholarship program that would increase the number of Rutherford County high school graduates going on to college. They believed that the best way to increase the standard of living in Rutherford County was to raise the level of educational attainment. Chuck Flack enlisted the help of Roger "Buck" Petty, then superintendent of Rutherford County Schools and Ron Paris, then owner of the local newspaper, The Daily Courier, to put a plan in place.
Bob McNair felt that many of his classmates at Cool Springs had limited their success because they had not had the opportunity to go to college. He wanted to remove the financial barriers to college attendance by accessing all possible means of scholarship and other outside aid, and after exhausting those possibilities, providing direct aid from McNair funds. In 1989, the Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation was created with the Class of 1990 being the first beneficiaries of the programs provided by the Foundation.
One of the early assumptions was if students were helped through the first year of college, they would be able to rely on other resources to finish their education. Experience has shown the wisdom of this decision. As the college aid received by students significantly increased, we were able to increase the number of students we serve. Our efforts are now centered on motivating students early in their academic career to prepare themselves for college and helping them access funds for the first year of college.
Robert and Janice, recognizing that the funds for the foundation were generated through the free enterprise system, sought to keep its operation within the private sector, while seeking and giving full cooperation to the public school system in a genuine collaborative effort.