Robert C. McNair
Robert C. McNair, founder, senior chairman and chief executive officer of the NFL’s Houston Texans and a major Thoroughbred owner and breeder, passed away on Friday, November 23, 2018, at the age of 81. He is survived by his wife, Janice, sons, Cal and Cary, daughters, Ruth and Melissa, 15 grandchildren (10 granddaughters, five grandsons) and two great grandsons.
McNair was a leading businessman, sportsman and philanthropist in Houston who returned professional football to the city in 2002. His idea to bring the NFL back to Houston was approved on October 5, 1999, after a 29-0 vote by the League’s owners to award him the 32nd NFL franchise. His influence and leadership also brought two Super Bowls to NRG Stadium: Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 and Super Bowl LI in 2017. As a committed leader in the NFL, McNair 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.
Stonerside Stable, a major thoroughbred horse farm in Kentucky, was also among McNair’s 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 (in partnership with Frank Stronach), and bred the winners of more than $50 million. Stonerside was named Breeder of the Year in 2007 and 2008 by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Asssociation/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders. He sold the farm and almost all of his bloodstock to Sheikh Mohammed and it became part of Darley in 2008, when McNair left racing to focus on his NFL team.
Throughout his life, McNair and his charitable foundations generously gave more than $500 million to a wide array of scientific, literary, educational and faith-based organizations. McNair chaired The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, the Houston Texans Foundation and The Robert and Janice McNair Educational 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 Houston, including projects such as the Houston Zoo’s Elephant Habitat, the jogging trail at Discovery Green, the United Way Computer Training Center and the McNair Hall and Plaza at Houston Baptist University. McNair also donated $100 million to help build the Baylor College of Medicine McNair Campus, which is located in close proximity to the Texas Medical Center and is home to two outstanding healthcare facilities. 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 its school of management, “Janice and Robert McNair Hall” and Baylor College of Medicine presented him with its first Pink Ribbon Hero Award for his commitment to fight cancer.
The McNair Scholars Program recruits and deploys world-class physicians and research scientists in the fields of diabetes, cancer and neurosciences, which helps influencers across Houston’s acclaimed Texas Medical Center. 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.
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. He also served as senior chairman of McNair Interests, Palmetto Partners, Ltd. and RCM Financial Services, L.P. He was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Houston Hall of Fame in 2010. In 2018, McNair became the sixth recipient of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame’s Lamar Hunt Lifetime Achievement Award.
McNair was born in Tampa, Fla. 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.
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