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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.


Make a Donation to the McNair Educational Foundation in Rutherford County, North Carolina.

View Tributes


Thank you all for your comments and condolences.

We can never repay him but we can pay it forward. 


What a legacy he leaves behind. It has been an honor and a privilege to know and to work for this humble, caring and generous man. His impact on the lives of so many in this county and beyond is immeasurable and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity he provided me to help carry out his vision of changing lives through education. I will miss his sharp intelligence, strong integrity, quiet strength and sense of humor. “Well done, good and faithful servant...Enter into the joy of your Master.”

Monica Lee, Executive Director
Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation

“True wealth does not glitter. It is revealed by the beauty of a life well lived.” (Debasish Mridha)

Janice, I have many fond memories of our trips to Kiawah and Houston when Vernon was director of your foundation. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

Christine Hoyle

Thank you for all you have done for the community and thank you for the privilege of allowing me to be a Mcnair mentor!
You will be forever in our hearts and minds Always.

Alden Danielr

Please accept my sincere condolences. I am so sorry for your loss. Everyone in the McNair family is in my prayers. I am a McNair Mentor at Chase High and Chase Middle School. I am honored to be a part of such a wonderful organization with such an important mission. Like Mr. McNair, I grew up in Harris. Many of my family members knew him when he was in high school. One that knew him well was Robert Tate. Before his death, Robert spoke frequently of his friend, Bob. Words cannot adequately describe how grateful we are that both Robert and Janice chose to support students here in Rutherford County. I thank you. And, know this, Mr. McNair's work goes on through all of us he has greatly influenced.

Thad M. Harrill

I volunteer as a Mentor for the McNair Foundation in Rutherford County, NC. I was not fortunate enough to ever meet Mr. McNair, but, I have heard nothing but great things about him. This foundation is such a blessing to our students and I am thankful to be a part of such an organization! My most sincere condolences to the McNair family.

Tina Sims

Our prayers and thoughts are with your family during this time of sadness and grief. While I did not have the privilege of personally knowing Mr. McNair, I am grateful for the generosity and dedication he had and made for the students and education of Rutherford County. I am a mentor at Chase High School and have experienced first hand the impact of the McNair Rope scholarship program has had on students and mentors alike. Many humble thanks to Mr. and Mrs. McNair and family. May the Lord bring great comfort, peace, and strength in the days ahead.


Grace and Peace,

Rev. Chris and Jamie Fox


"16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work." 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

My condolences to the family and the community in the loss of such a generous and compassionate Man. May God bless you.

Delores Mills

My family sends our prayers and condolences to yours. Our oldest son, AJ Simmons, received a scholarship to help with his Freshman year at North Carolina A&T State University. He is in his junior year of college. His major is Journalism and Mass Communication. We are preparing for our youngest son, Cameron Simmons, to graduate in June 2019 and also attend North Carolina A&T State University. Hopefully he will also receive a scholarship from the McNair Foundation. The assistance provided to our family was such a huge help. Thank you, Mr. McNair, and your family for supporting children in Rutherford County. He will truly be missed, but his legacy is endless and will continue to help children and families.

Tarah Simmons

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

LuAnn Swink

We ask God for peace for your family. We thank God for the blessings you have shared with our family, our community, and our world. Few leave a legacy of benevolence as Mr. McNair. We will continue to pray for your family.

Tommy, Connie and Gabe Turner

You have my deepest sympathy during this time of loss. I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. McNair but it seems like I know him through the generous efforts he has shared with our kids in Rutherford County. God Bless.

Dolly Horton

I am honored to work for Rutherford County Schools, a place near and dear to Mr. McNair. His unwavering generosity and compassion have helped to enhance the educational opportunities our students receive. It has helped prepare our students for higher educational opportunities. His giving speaks volumes to the kind of man he was and we will always appreciate what he has done for RCS. Thank you and God bless you and your family Mrs. McNair!

Hilarie Beam


Anthony McSwain

To Janice, I wanted to express my heartfelt condolences to you and your family on the loss of Robert. As a recipient of the McNair Scholarship in the inaugural class of scholarships at East Rutherford High School in 1990, I will be forever grateful for what you and Robert have done and continue to do in my hometown and surrounding communities.

Stephen Brown

Sorry for your loss. Great man with a big heart. True example of commitment to his people in Rutherford county. You help my son with the scholarship money and now he is at NC state. God Bless you. Our sincere condolences from my husband and I.

Ligia Contreras

The generosity of Robert and Janice McNair is remarkable and will carry on for generations to come for students in Rutherford County. It has been a joy and pleasure to meet this couple and report their stories for 25 years. All our lives are better because of this couple. Prayers for Janice and all the family during these days ahead. You will not be forgotten. We are more than proud to call Robert McNair one of our own. RIP and Godspeed, Robert McNair.

Jean Gordon

Thanks to the generosity of Mr. McNair, our daughter received the Rope Award, which helped her get off to a good start her freshman year at UNC Chapel Hill. We will never forget everything Mr. McNair has done for students and families in Rutherford County. Praying for the McNair family.

Denise Yelton

R-S Central High School students and staff send their heartfelt condolences to the McNair family. We, as well as this community, have been forever impacted by his vision of helping others find success regardless of their starting point. We appreciate his passion for the students of our schools that was always grounded in his intense passion for learning. It was his drive to learn that has shaped countless future generations. His dedication for removing barriers leveled the playing field and opened doors for students that may have otherwise fallen short of their dreams. Robert McNair was a great man who set an example for us all. His memory is a testament to all that is noble and kind. His is the tale of a spirited crusade marked by hard work and dedication, rooted in the ambition to leave our corner of the world better than it was found. His absence will be deeply felt, but we can find comfort in knowing his legacy of giving will not end.

Phil Rogers, RS Central High School Principal

Robert has a good friend as company today. Two good men.

Erwin Fox

I have been a McNair mentor for about five years now and have recruited a few other of my staff members as mentors. It takes a village to raise a child and the McNair family fostered and funded a big part of our village for the sole purpose of helping our local children succeed. Thoughts, prayers, and thankfulness goes out to Mr. McNair’s family from this grateful recipient of the Foundation’s generosity.

Kim Hollifield

Our deepest sympathies in this time of such a loss as Mr. McNair. Although I never had the privilege of meeting him, his generosity and strive for greatness has been prevalent in our County of Rutherford, NC. It’s a rarity these days for someone to purposely leave a positive mark on our world as Mr. McNair has.


God bless you all.


The McCranie family

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