In September 2015, Northwood University established the McNair Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship on its Midland, MI campus. The McNair Center promises to become a leading university think tank focused on the advocacy and expansion of free market economics, and the creation and cultivation of entrepreneurs. The McNair Center was made possible by a generous gift from Robert and Janice McNair who are living examples of how entrepreneurship and the free enterprise system generates jobs, changes lives and literally charts a new course for individuals, families and entire communities. The McNair Center is dedicated to carrying out McNair's vision for awakening a new generation of entrepreneurs while defending the moral and ethical underpinnings of the American competitive free enterprise system.
Janice McNair and The Late Robert C. McNair (Jan. 1, 1937 – Nov. 23, 2018)
Robert C. McNair, a leading businessman, sportsman and philanthropist in Houston, Texas for more than 50 years, was the founder, senior chairman and chief executive officer of the Houston Texans National Football League team. McNair 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 with an aggregate capacity of 1,400 megawatts. In 1999, he sold the company while retaining ownership of power plants in New York and West Virginia, until 2017 and 2018 respectively.
McNair served as senior chairman of McNair Interests, headquartered in Houston, Texas where he oversaw an investment portfolio. McNair owned Palmetto Partners, Ltd. and RCM Financial Services, L.P., private investment entities that managed the McNairs’ private and public equity investments.
Bob McNair was born in Tampa, FL. and graduated from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. in 1958 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He met Janice Suber, who was reared in Orangeburg, S.C., while she was attending nearby Columbia College where she later graduated.
Committed to bringing an NFL team to Houston, McNair formed Houston NFL Holdings in 1998. On October 5, 1999, the NFL awarded him the 32nd NFL franchise, returning professional football to the City of Houston in 2002. In 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2018, the Texans won their AFC South Division Championship. McNair’s influence and leadership also brought two Super Bowls to Houston’s NRG Stadium: Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 and Super Bowl LI in 2017.
McNair was actively involved in NFL affairs including serving as chairman of the Finance Committee. He was also a member of the Audit, Compensation and Chairman’s Committees.
Among McNair’s other successes from 1994 to 2008 was Stonerside Stable, a 1,947-acre Thoroughbred horse farm and racing stable in Kentucky. Home to more than 275 racehorses, broodmares, yearlings and weanlings, Stonerside won 72 Graded Stakes races including Grade l wins in the Belmont, Breeders’ Cup Mile, the Travers, the Haskell, the Hollywood Gold Cup, the Cigar Mile, the Carter, the Swaps, the Wood Memorial, the Matriarch and the Oak Leaf Stakes. Stonerside finished second and third in the Kentucky Derby and was the co-breeder of Fusaichi Pegasus, winner of the Derby in 2000. Stonerside bred the winners of more than $50 million, including the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Raven’s Pass and 2008 Champion American Juvenile colt Midshipman, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Stonerside was named Breeder of the Year in 2007 and 2008 by Kentucky horsemen. In October 2008, McNair sold Stonerside to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.
McNair was elected to membership in the prestigious Jockey Club, and to positions on the board of the Breeders’ Cup and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. He was awarded the Allen Bogan Memorial Award for outstanding service to the Texas Thoroughbred Association. Houston’s Sam Houston Race Park renamed the Sam Houston Sprint Cup the Stonerside Sprint in honor of McNair in 2019, and the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame will induct Janice and Bob as members later in the year.
Bob 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 become the sixth recipient of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame’s Lamar Hunt Lifetime Achievement Award.
The McNairs 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 and the Houston Texans Foundation in Houston and The Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation in Forest City, N.C. To date, they have contributed more than a half billion dollars to charity.
Together, the McNairs established McNair Scholars programs which 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. Baylor College of Medicine named the McNair Campus in recognition of their transformational gift in 2007 to the McNair Medical Institute and McNair Scholars Program.
In 2015, the McNairs began establishing McNair Centers for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise. Today, these Centers at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, the University of St. Thomas Houston, Houston Baptist University, the University of South Carolina and Northwood University in Midland, Michigan promote an understanding and appreciation of the role innovation, entrepreneurism and free enterprise play in society.
The McNair Foundation’s gifts helped build McNair Field which serves as home to the Forest City Owls baseball team in North Carolina and created a memorial in recognition of the Mother Emanuel Nine at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Their love of community is evident throughout the City of Houston, including McNair Hall at Rice University’s Jesse Jones Graduate School of Business, the McNair Foundation Jogging Trail at Discovery Green, 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.
The McNairs most recently chaired the American Cancer Society’s “Hope Lodge Houston” capital campaign and co-chaired Texas Children’s Hospital’s “Promise Campaign.” Bob and Janice McNair’s generosity hasn’t gone unnoticed. Bob was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Baylor College of Medicine and the University of South Carolina, and Janice received an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities from Columbia College. In 2013, Bob was named a Man of Distinction in Houston and a “Living Legend” by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in 2015. Additionally, Janice 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. In 2010, the DePelchin Children’s Center presented Janice and Bob McNair with their Kezia DePelchin Award and in the same year the Association of Fundraising Professionals presented them with their Maurice Hirsch Award for Philanthropy, the highest recognition given to an individual or family for exceptional generosity and outstanding civic and charitable responsibility. Texas Children’s Cancer Center honored the McNairs as their 2011 Community Champions. 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, which had only been awarded one other time. The McNair Foundation will receive the Scouting…Vale le 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 adult children, sixteen grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Janice currently serves as co-founder and senior chair of the Houston Texans and is senior chair of McNair Interests.
"We are proud of our long and valued relationship with Northwood University, and we are excited to invest in a university that has a passion for entrepreneurism, free enterprise and the future success of its' student body. We are confident the McNair Center at Northwood will mold a new generation of young people who will find their entrepreneurial spirit, achieve the American dream and prove once again, that America's best days are yet to come," said Robert McNair.