About the McNairs

About the McNairs
Growing up in North Carolina, Robert C. McNair knew many more of his high school classmates could have gone to university, but for the lack of money.

Bob McNair graduated from Cool Springs High School in Rutherford County, N.C. 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. Janice McNair, a graduate of Columbia College in Columbia, S.C., has always shared her husband’s vision and passion for helping others. The McNairs moved to Houston in 1960.

After some success career in the auto and truck leasing business, Bob started Cogen Technologies in 1983, headquartered in Houston, Texas.

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, N.C. 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.

Bob McNair 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, secured by a $1 million life insurance policy.  In 1989, the Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation was officially launched, with the Class of 1990 being the first beneficiaries of the programs provided by the Foundation. 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. This foundation’s activities started in one high school, then expanded and now it covers students from elementary through all the high schools and the community colleges in Rutherford County - with a continuous program of varied events, teambuilding, summer jump start program between middle and high school, visiting speakers and mentors, competitions, awards, dozens of service learning opportunities, athlete specific programs and scholarships. By 2012, the Foundation has assisted students in finding well over $11.9 million in college aid funding. Outside financial aid assistance received by students in just the year 2012 was $2,214,762.

In 1999, Bob sold Cogen Technologies but he retained ownership in power plants in New York and West Virginia. McNair serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The McNair Group, a financial and real estate firm that is headquartered in Houston, Texas and is Chairman of the McNair Foundation. Committed to bringing a National Football League team to the city of Houston, Bob 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.

In 2015, based on their belief that the US free enterprise system had fostered not only their entrepreneurial opportunities, but the entire success of the US economy, they began establishing McNair Centers for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise; at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, the University of St. Thomas Houston, Houston Baptist University, the University of South Carolina, Northwood University in Midland, Mich., and Columbia College.

McNair was named Entrepreneur of the Decade by the Houston Technology Center and a Man of Distinction by the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and was awarded the James A. Baker III Prize for Excellence in Leadership by the Baker Institute at Rice University.

He was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the Texas Business Hall of Fame and the Houston Hall of Fame and was presented with an honorary doctorate of humanities from Baylor College of Medicine and the University of South Carolina.

The McNairs have four grown children, 15 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Meet the Director

McNair Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship  

Dr. Martin Lindenberg joined the University of Saint Thomas as the Director of The McNair Center for Free Enterprise & Entrepreneurship in July 2016.


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Academic Programs

Leadership Scholarship  

The Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship minor is tailored for both non-business and business students. See a list of required courses and descriptions.


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About the McNairs

About the Burnett Endowed Chair  

Bob and Janice McNair believe the U.S. free enterprise system fostered not only their entrepreneurial opportunities, but the entire success of the US economy.


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McNair Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship About the McNairs
The McNair Center
The McNair Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at The University of St. Thomas Houston was founded in July 2015 thanks to a generous $5 million commitment from The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation.
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University of St. Thomas
McNair Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship
3800 Montrose Blvd.
Houston, TX 77006

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McNair Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship
Welder Hall
3812 Yoakum Blvd.
Houston, TX 77006

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  University of St. Thomas
3800 Montrose
Houston, Texas 77006-4626

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