Robert C. McNair - 1937-2018
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HOUSTON, TX - November 23, 2018 - It is with deep sadness that we announce that McNair Interests Founder and Senior Chairman, Robert C. McNair, passed away peacefully at his Houston home today with his loving wife, Janice, and his family by his side. In addition to his wife Janice, he is also survived by sons Cary and Cal, daughters Ruth and Melissa, 15 grandchildren and two great grandsons.
McNair was 81-years-old at the time of his passing. Robert McNair grew up in the Harris community in Rutherford County, NC and graduated from Cool Springs High School in Forest City, NC in 1954. He then graduated from the University of South Carolina and he and his wife, Janice moved to Houston, TX. He was a leading businessman, sportsman and philanthropist in Houston, Texas who was perhaps best known in the business community as the founder of Cogen Technologies, which became the largest privately-owned cogeneration company in the world. After selling Cogen to Enron in 1999, he formed The McNair Group, which became McNair Interests in 2018.
In 1989, he started the Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation at East Rutherford High School to help students from Rutherford County Schools pursue education after high school. In the past 10 years, he supported the expansion of the Foundation programs to all of Rutherford County Schools' traditional public high schools and their feeder elementary and middle schools as well as working with students enrolled in college. Mr. McNair also generously contributed to several interests in Rutherford County including McNair Field in Forest City, the baseball training facility at East Rutherford High School and, most recently, to Isothermal Community College and Chase High School.
Stonerside Stable, a major thoroughbred horse farm in Kentucky, was among McNair’s many successes. A 1,947-acre thoroughbred horse farm and racing stable, Stonerside was home to more than 275 racehorses, broodmares, yearlings and weanlings. From its inception in 1994, Stonerside won 72 Graded Stakes, including the 1997 Belmont Stakes, and bred the winners of more than $50 million in purses. Stonerside Stables was named Breeder of the Year in 2007 and 2008 by Kentucky horsemen.
McNair returned professional football to Houston in 2002 after the NFL awarded the 32nd NFL franchise to him on October 5, 1999. His influence and leadership brought two Super Bowls to NRG Stadium: Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 and Super Bowl LI in 2017. He was actively involved in League affairs including serving as chairman of the Finance Committee and a member of the Audit, Compensation and Chairman’s committees.
Throughout his life, McNair and his charitable foundations generously gave more than $500 million to a wide array of scientific, literary, educational, human service and faith-based organizations. McNair chaired The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, The Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation and the Houston Texans Foundation for more than 25 years. His philanthropic leadership, humanitarian efforts and impact in the community were recognized far and wide with numerous awards and honors.
The McNairs’ love of community is evident throughout the city, including projects such as the Houston Zoo’s Elephant Habitat, the jogging trail at Discovery Green, the United Way 2-1-1 Helpline Center and McNair Hall and McNair Plaza at Houston Baptist University. McNair also donated $100 million to establish the McNair Scholars program, which recruits world-class physicians and research scientists to the Texas Medical Center. The Association of Fundraising Professionals honored McNair with the highest recognition given for exceptional generosity and outstanding civic and charitable responsibility. Additionally, Rice University named the Janice and Robert McNair Hall at its Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business and Baylor College of Medicine presented him with its first Pink Ribbon Hero Award for his commitment to fight cancer. In 2016, MD Anderson and Tom Brokaw honored McNair as an MD Anderson Living Legend.
More recently, McNair established six McNair Centers for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise, which will empower a new generation of leaders who will be positioned to create jobs and economic growth. McNair has also been honored for his devotion to supporting the education of inner-city and underprivileged youth and was awarded the James A. Baker III Prize for Excellence in Leadership.
Bob McNair was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Houston Hall of Fame in 2010. In 2018, he became the sixth recipient of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame’s Lamar Hunt Lifetime Achievement Award.
McNair was born in Tampa, Florida and moved to Houston with his wife, Janice, in 1960. He graduated from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. in 1958. He received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from South Carolina in 1999, and an Honorary Doctor of Humanities in Medicine from Baylor College of Medicine in 2010.