In 2002, Robert C. McNair brought NFL football back to Houston. However, the Texans founder, chairman and CEO has made an everlasting impact for more than 50 years with his philanthropy and contribution to the community. McNair chaired The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, the Houston Texans Foundation headquartered in Houston, Texas, and The Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation where he grew up in Forest City, N.C. For over 25 years, the McNairs and their foundations gave generously to a wide array of charitable, scientific, literary, educational and religious organizations.
“He and his wife have given so much to this city beyond football,” Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said. “Houston has always been fortunate to have what I call people who are bigger than life, dream big, make things happen, visionary, bold and Bob McNair has been one of them.”
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.
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 March, McNair was honored with the 2018 Lamar Hunt Lifetime Achievement award by the Texas Sports Hall of Fame for his vision, leadership and commitment to the Houston community.
When Hurricane Harvey hit their hometown and surrounding area in 2017, the McNairs stepped forward immediately and gave $3 million to the United Way of Greater Houston for relief efforts. When the Texans fourth preseason game was moved to Arlington and then cancelled, the McNair family made another donation, equal to the money that would have been generated from ticket sales, to address the immediate needs of those impacted by the flooding and devastation.
“Bob McNair wasn’t just the brightest Point of Light in Houston; he was one of the kindest and most generous people anywhere,” former President George H.W. Bush said. “Nobody cared — or helped people — more, and that’s just one of the reasons I will always be proud Bob was my good friend. He was simply The Best. My most sincere condolences and family love go to Janice and her wonderful family.”
For nearly 30 years, the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation has donated scholarships to an array of charitable, scientific, literary, educations and religious organizations including the Baylor College of Medicine’s MD/PhD Program, and scholarship initiatives at the University of South Carolina, Columbia College, Newberry College, Austin College, Virginia Tech and Houston Community College. McNair, who grew up Forest City, South Carolina, wanted to provide a means to education for those who could not afford it. In September 2017, Rutherford County N.C., where Bob McNair grew up, inducted him into their inaugural Sports Hall of Fame class. McNair created the scholarship program to make college a possibility for students in those rural areas. Bob and Janice McNair have given scholarships to Rutherford County students, granting 2,239 scholarships worth $8,867,480.00 to date.
In 2007, the McNairs turned their primary philanthropic focus to medical research. They established the McNair Medical Institute and provided a transformational gift to the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. The McNair Scholars Program soon followed to recruit and deploy world-class physicians and research scientists in the fields of Type 1 diabetes, cancer and neurosciences. In addition to Baylor College of Medicine, McNair Scholars are located across Houston’s acclaimed Texas Medical Center including MD Anderson, The Menninger Clinic, Texas Children’s Hospital and the Texas Heart Institute.
McNair has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Anti-Defamation League’s Torch of Liberty Award, Northwood University’s Outstanding Business Leader Award, the Association for Private Enterprise Education’s Herman W. Lay Memorial Award, the Houston Chapter of the National Football Foundation’s Distinguished American Award, the Houston Rotary Club’s Distinguished Citizen Award, The South Main Center Association’s City Builder Award, the Houston Advertising Federation’s Annual Trailblazer Award (for significantly enhancing the overall image of Houston both locally and globally), the Sam Houston Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizen Award, The Texas Heart Institute’s Denton A. Cooley Leadership Award, the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge National Award for Outstanding Patriotism, Responsible Citizenship and Community Involvement, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes President and Mrs. George H. W. Bush Community Impact Award.
Honoring the life and career of Texans Founder and CEO Bob McNair, in photos.