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McNair increases donation to alma mater


Texans owner Bob McNair and his wife, Janice, are well-known for their philanthropic efforts in Houston and around the United States.

The University of South Carolina announced Friday that alumnus and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair will increase the funding for a prestigious scholarship program that bears his name to $30 million.

The announcement is part of the university's 10th anniversary celebration of the program. In 1998, McNair and his wife, Janice, gave $20 million to establish the McNair Scholars Program, which is the university's most prestigious and valuable scholarship program for out-of-state students and complements the Carolina Scholars Program for in-state students.

University president Andrew Sorensen said the original gift has raised the university's academic prestige and visibility throughout the United States.

"The McNair Scholars Program has enabled the university to attract many of the nation's best and brightest students and has spread the word about the many outstanding academic programs offered at the University of South Carolina," Sorensen said.

"The increase in funding for the McNair program will ensure its longevity and success as one of the nation's most attractive and competitive scholarships for academically gifted students," he said.

The first McNair Scholars, nine freshmen in all, arrived at Carolina in the fall of 1998. The full-tuition scholarship program has grown steadily to include 20 freshmen from around the country who receive the award each year. The program boasts 94 alumni and 81 students, including this year's entering class, which posted an average SAT of 1487.

McNair, who earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the university in 1958, said the additional funding for the scholarship is an investment in people and the future.

"Janice and I have participated in, and established, many different programs. We take pride in investing in programs that support intellect, instead of bricks and mortar," he said. "That has been the path that we have chosen. We believe that the impact is more long term, and we believe in investing in intellectual capital - scholarships for students and grants for faculty members."

McNair founded Cogen Technologies, which he sold in 1999, and is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of the Houston Texans. The McNairs are widely known for their philanthropic efforts on behalf of the greater Houston area and higher education, including a college scholarship program for students from his hometown of Forest City, N.C. The McNair Foundation was honored as the 2003 Outstanding Philanthropic Foundation.

The rewards of philanthropy are many, McNair said.

"Janice and I find it very rewarding to see young people progress and to know that we were able to assist them," he said. "I would encourage anyone to give serious consideration to sharing what they have with others, and I think that they'll find that the rewards are very significant."

Jacque Riley is one of the young people who has benefited from the McNairs' gift. Riley, who came to the university in 2001 as a McNair Scholar from Gainesville, Fla., said she visited the campus, fell in love with the university's Horseshoe and the university's public relations program, "but the McNair scholarship sealed the deal. It was life changing for me."

Because the scholarship enabled her to leave college without debts, Riley has been able to open her own public relations firm, Riley Communications, in Columbia, which is home for her and her husband.

"I want to give back to this place that has given so much to me," she said.

Helping young people fulfill their dreams is at the heart of why McNair founded the scholarship program.

"If you have a passion for something, there's a good chance you will do well at it. You're going to work very hard because you enjoy it and not because you have to," McNair said. "If someone had asked me many years ago, 'Where do you think you'll be?' and suggested I'd have the kind of business career that I've had, I would have said that's the least likely thing that I could ever imagine."

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