Robert and Janice McNair Education Foundation: Texas Grants

OVERVIEW: The Robert and Janice McNair Education Foundation is a philanthropic vehicle of Houston Texans founder Robert McNair and his wife Janice. The foundation's Texas grantmaking involves education, human services and more. Of late, the foundation has focused especially on health and funds the McNair Scholars Program, which backs "rising stars" in the medical field pursuing cures for juvenile diabetes, breast or pancreatic cancer, or research in neurosciences.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, Health, Youth, Human Services, Arts & Culture, Environment

IP TAKE: The foundation has a website but it currently appears to be under construction. As such, it's unclear what guidelines the foundation follows or how to get in touch with it.

PROFILE: Now in his late 70s, billionaire Robert C. McNair was born in North Carolina and attended University of South Carolina. His wife Janice attended nearby Columbia College. The couple have been residents of Houston, Texas for decades, and 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 McNair is worth around $3 billion. McNair now serves as chairman and CEO of McNair Group and he also founded the Houston Texans.

The couple has been heavily involved in philanthropy. Their Robert and Janice McNair Education 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, funding a long trail of grantees each year.

In education, recent support has gone to Episcopal High School and Briarwood School in Houston. A recent grant to Mercury Houston, meanwhile, supported fine arts programming at prep schools. Recent funds have also gone to Neuhaus Education Center in Bellaire, a "nonprofit educational foundation dedicated to promoting reading success," Phi Beta Kappa Alumni toward high school scholarships, Junior Achievement of the Southwest, YES Prep Public Schools, KIPP Houston and more.

On the higher education front, millions have streamed to Rice University, including around $8.8 million in 2006. More recently, 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. $3 million also went to Houston Baptist University in a recent year.

The couple also has a strong interest in health and the reasons are at least in part personal. McNair has suffered from two types of cancer. In the past, the couple gave a $100 million gift to Baylor College of Medicine and created the McNair Medical Institute at Baylor College of Medicine 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 also runs at other health outfits in Texas including 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, including Belleville Hospital Foundation, Epilepsy Foundation of Texas, and McLane Children's Scott & White have been supported. In the past, a large gift of around $1.6 million went to Lexicon Pharmaceuticals toward diabetes research. The foundation also recently issued a 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."

McNair and Janice have also supported human services and outfits supporting youth in Texas through their foundation. 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," SEARCH Homeless Services, Fifth Ward Enrichment Program, For Houston's Kids, and Misson of Yahweh, a homeless shelter for women and children. 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."

The McNairs also support arts and culture, and in the past, they gave a $1 million grant 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. They have given sums to the Houston Zoo, Holocaust Museum Houston, Museum of Natural Science and more. 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.


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The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation

109 N. Post Oak Ln., Ste. 600

Houston, TX 77024

Fax: (713) 336-7757