The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation is a philanthropic vehicle of Robert McNair and his wife Janice. While McNair and Janice got their start on the East Coast—McNair attended University of South Carolina and Janice attended nearby Columbia College—the couple has lived in Houston, Texas for years. McNair founded Cogen Technologies in 1983, one of the largest non-utility co-generators of electrical and thermal energy in the United States. Cogen was sold to Enron in 1999 for $1.5 billion and the 78-year-old McNair is worth $3.3 billion as of this writing. McNair serves as chairman and CEO of McNair Group and also founded the Houston Texans of the National Football League.
The McNairs have been heavily involved in philanthropy for years. Their Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation works with Rutherford County Schools in North Carolina to improve college access and success for students. The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, meanwhile, focuses its philanthropy on the couple's adopted state of Texas. In 2013, the foundation held nearly $81 million in assets and gave away around $11.6 million.
The couple's Texas grantmaking involves health, education, human services and more, with a long trail of grantees each year. The foundation's website currently appears to be under construction, making it difficult to get a handle on what guidelines the foundation has for grantseekers, and how, exactly, to get in touch. The foundation's executive director was Joanie Haley, but since earlier in 2015, the role has been taken on by Cynthia Tapscott Canevaro, who has a Linkedin profile. Here are a few must-knows about McNair's Texas grantmaking:
1. The Couple Has a Strong Interest in Education in Texas
On the higher education front, millions have streamed to Rice University, including around $8.8 million in 2006. More recently, in 2015, McNair provided an $8 million endowment to establish the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The foundation also recently gave a $5 million gift to establish the the McNair Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas Houston. Another $3 million also went to Houston Baptist University in 2014.
In terms of K-12 education, recent support has gone to Episcopal High School and Briarwood School in Houston. Funds have also gone to Neuhaus Education Center in Bellaire, a "nonprofit educational foundation dedicated to promoting reading success," Phi Beta Kappa Alumni towards high school scholarships, Junior Achievement of the Southwest, KIPP Houston and more.
2. The Couple Also Supports Health Outfits in Texas
McNair has suffered from two types of cancer, so at least some of his health philanthropy is personal. In 2007, the couple gave a $100 million gift to Baylor College of Medicine and created the McNair Medical Institute which manages the McNair Scholars program. These McNair Scholars pursue "collaborative and transformational research in the areas of breast and pancreatic cancer, juvenile diabetes and the neurosciences." McNair scholar Malgorzata Borowiak's work involves "human pancreatic development and pluripotent stem cell technology application towards cellular therapy for type 1 diabetes."
The McNair Scholars program doesn't just operate at Baylor, but also also at Texas health outfits such as MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas Heart Institute, and Menninger Clinic, an "inpatient psychiatric hospital." Apart from the heavy work through McNair Scholars, other health outfits in Texas such as Belleville Hospital Foundation, Epilepsy Foundation of Texas, McLane Children's Scott & White have been supported. In 2012, as well, a large gift of around $1.6 million went to Lexicon Pharmaceuticals toward diabetes research. The foundation also recently issued a $4 million challenge grant to American Cancer Society to build an American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Houston, which will provide "no-cost lodging and support to those traveling across America to receive cancer treatment in Houston."
3. Money Has Also Supported Human Services and Youth in Texas
Recent funds have gone to Belinizio in Houston, which helps " disadvantaged women develop self-confidence and life skills through fitness and nutrition," DePelchin's Childrens Center, which provides "mental health, foster care, and adoption services," and SEARCH Homeless Services, among others. Steady support has also gone to Souper Bowl of Caring, whose vision is to "transform Super Bowl weekend into the nation's largest youth-led weekend of giving and serving."
4. Assorted Sums Have Gone Elsewhere
The McNairs also support arts and culture, and in 2013, a $1 million grant went to Houston Grand Opera. The couple has also supported A.D. Players Theater in Houston, and made a $2 million commitment to the theater's capital campaign. Assorted sums have also gone to environmental outfits in Texas such as Memorial Park Conservancy and Hermann Park Conservancy in Houston, as well as to Nature Conservancy of Texas.