Our Story

The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation was established in 1988, addressing needs in the fields of education, the environment, neighborhood renewal, character development, religion, basic human needs, medicine, and the cultural arts. In 2007, the foundation directed its primary efforts to the support of medical research in breast and pancreatic cancer, Type 1 diabetes, and the neurosciences.

Today, the foundation is focused squarely on powerful and measurable impact related to education (McNair Scholars), future business leaders (McNair Centers for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise), medical research (McNair Medical Institute), and civic engagement. The McNairs are dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for current and future generations by creating lasting, positive change.

Janice and Robert McNair

Janice and Robert C. McNair have been champions of philanthropy for many years, giving generously to deserving causes while making education and medical research the cornerstone of their philanthropic giving. They are founders of The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, the Houston Texans Foundation, the McNair Medical Institute and the Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation in Forest City, N.C.

Robert McNair, the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of the Houston Texans, is best known in the business community as the founder of Cogen Technologies, which was the largest privately owned cogeneration company in the world when it was sold in 1999. He serves as chairman of The McNair Group and owns Palmetto Partners Ltd. and RCM Financial Services L.P., private investment entities. He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina, where he served as student body president.

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McNair was named Entrepreneur of the Decade by the Houston Technology Center and a Man of Distinction by the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and was awarded the James A. Baker III Prize for Excellence in Leadership by the Baker Institute at Rice University. He was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the Texas Business Hall of Fame and the Houston Hall of Fame and was presented with an honorary doctorate of humanities from Baylor College of Medicine and the University of South Carolina.

Committed to bringing a National Football League team to Houston, McNair was awarded the 32nd NFL franchise in 1999, and the Houston Texans debuted in 2002. In 2011, 2012 and 2015, the Texans won the AFC South Division Championship. Active in NFL affairs, McNair serves as chairman of the NFL’s Finance Committee and is a member of the Audit and Los Angeles Expansion committees. McNair’s leadership led the NFL to award Houston, Texas, as host city for Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 and again in 2017, for Super Bowl LI. McNair is credited with reviving Houston’s collegiate bowl game in 2006 and presently serves as founder and chairman emeritus of the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl. McNair was honored by the bowl as a Gridiron Legend in 2011 for his impact on football at all levels in Houston.

Janice McNair, a graduate of Columbia College in Columbia, S.C., shares her husband’s vision and passion for helping others. She has been honored by numerous nonprofit organizations, including the Salvation Army in 2014, Child Advocates in 2009 and the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council in 2005. Together, the McNairs have established McNair Scholars programs at the University of South Carolina, Columbia College, Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine, M.D. Anderson, the Menninger Clinic, Texas Children’s Hospital and the Texas Heart Institute. In 2007, their transformational gift to Baylor College of Medicine enabled the recruitment of world-class research physicians and scientists in the fields of Type 1 diabetes, breast and pancreatic cancer and the neurosciences.

In 2015, they began establishing McNair Centers for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, the University of St. Thomas Houston, Houston Baptist University, the University of South Carolina, Northwood University in Midland, Mich., and Columbia College.

The McNairs’ generosity hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2014, they received the Crystal Eagle Award from the Houston Community College Foundation, the inaugural Margaret Alkek Williams Humanitarian Award from UNICEF and the President’s Award from Houston Baptist University, and they were honored by the Houston Zoo. In 2015, Bob McNair was honored as a Living Legend by M.D. Anderson and NBC’s Tom Brokaw. The McNairs chaired the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge Houston capital campaign and are currently co-chairing Texas Children’s Hospital’s Promise Campaign.

Bob and Janice McNair’s transformational gifts helped establish the Janice and Robert McNair Hall at Rice University, the Janice Suber McNair Asian Elephant Habitat at the Houston Zoo, Houston Baptist University’s McNair Hall and McNair Plaza, the AD Players’ Lorraine M. George Theatre in Houston, Texas, and the McNair Baseball Field in Forest City, N.C.

The McNairs have been residents of Houston since 1960. They have four grown children, 15 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Kristi S. Cooper

Executive Director

Kristi joined The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation as executive director in September 2017. She previously spent 6 years as Vice President of Philanthropy and Alumni Relations at Baylor College of Medicine where her leadership responsibilities included strategic planning and overseeing philanthropic and alumni programs. During her 18-year tenure at Baylor, she was part of the team that launched the first ever $1 billion campaign in Houston and was able to see the Best Minds Best Medicine campaign to successful completion ahead of its 10-year timeframe.

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Kristi is motivated by the dedicated non-profit organizations, donors and volunteers serving her hometown of Houston, Texas. She enjoys serving as a volunteer with several non-profits, including Literacy Advance, the East Spring Branch Food Pantry and a variety of professional associations.

She attended Baylor University in Waco, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Spanish and a Master of Science in Gerontology. Kristi is married to John Cooper, a real estate professional, and has two hounds and a cat.

R. Cary McNair, Jr.

President, McNair Medical Institute
Chairman, The McNair Group

Mr. McNair serves as President of the McNair Medical Institute (“MMI”), which focuses primarily on four life science areas: Type 1 diabetes, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer and neuroscience. MMI provides funding for recruitment of McNair Scholars into the Texas Medical Center as endowed researchers placed at Baylor College of Medicine, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas Children’s Hospital, and the Menninger Clinic. MMI also invests in early-stage development opportunities through venture philanthropy, while larger life science developments are funded by The McNair Group.

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In addition, Mr. McNair is Chairman of The McNair Group, a private equity investment company active in real estate and energy development projects, as well as public and private equities. He is responsible for corporate strategy that guides the business operations and investment portfolio, and directs acquisitions and development of high-yield assets. Mr. McNair’s entrepreneurial background includes petro-chemical transportation management, commercial real estate development and brokerage, and energy project development in the Americas.

Mr. McNair earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from The University of Texas at Austin (’82), and his Master of Business Administration from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University (’89). Formerly, he served on the Board of Directors of The Fay School (Houston), and Goodwill Industries of Houston. He is also a past member of the UT Houston Health Science Center Development Board. Currently, Mr. McNair serves on the Board of Directors for Glysens, Inc. (San Diego, CA) and Xeris Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Chicago, IL).

Dr. Charles Neblett

Medical Director, McNair Medical Institute

A native Texan, Dr. Charles R. Neblett was born and raised in Canyon, Texas where his father was a physician and his mother and sister educators.

During high school Neblett excelled in both academics and sports, ultimately achieving all-state quarterback in football, all-state center in basketball, Texas State-A high-hurdle champion, and playing in the North-South All-Star football game and the East-West All-Star basketball game.

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An honors student at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, Dr. Neblett was a member of the UT track team and The Friar Society, Foreman of the Texas Cowboys, Rush and Social Chairman of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, a Goodfellow and he graduated with a highly coveted Bachelor of Arts Plan II degree.

Dr. Neblett completed medical school, a medical internship and neurological surgery residency at the Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, which later became the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM). While at BCM, he was named sophomore class president, Phi Chi fraternity rush chairman, outstanding intern and was named to the Dean’s list. He then completed a research fellowship in neurological pathology at the Kantonsspital Zurich, which later became University Hospital Zurich (Switzerland).

For thirty-five years, Dr. Neblett was in the private practice of neurosurgery at the Texas Medical Center, specializing in vascular and base of the skull surgery. A pioneer in neurological laser surgery, he served as Founder and President of the Laser Association of Neurological Surgeons International, Founder and Chairman of the Cerebrovascular Section of the American Association of Neurological Neurosurgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, President of the Southern Neurosurgical Society, and President of the Texas Association of Neurological Surgeons. His publications include authorship of one book, five book chapters, eighteen peer reviewed original scientific articles (one of eight selected for the 25th Anniversary Publication of Medical Laser Applications), twenty-four editorial comments, and he served on four medical journal editorial boards. He is credited with helping build the first self-contained CO2 laser vacuum tube.

Since 2007, Dr. Neblett has been with the McNair Foundation, now serving as Medical Director of the McNair Medical Institute, where he oversees the Institute’s medical research programs including establishing translational medical/science research projects. He is professor emeritus at BCM’s departments of molecular physiology and biophysics and neurological surgery.

Dr. Neblett is an ex officio member of the BCM Board of Trustees and Past President of the BCM Alumni Association. He and his wife Sally live in Houston, Texas.

Dr. Dave Peterson

Director of Community Outreach

Dave Peterson (B.S, M.Div., D.Min., D.H.L.) is an ordained Presbyterian pastor who has served congregations in Washington, Nevada, Michigan, and Texas. He is Pastor Emeritus of the Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston. As Director of Community Outreach of the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, he serves as a point of connection between the Foundation and its outreach partners in the community. He also offers spiritual resources and guidance across the broad range of the McNairs’ interests.

Candice Neuner

Executive Assistant

Candice Neuner joined the Foundation in 2015, bringing over 15 years of administrative and project, data and claims management experience. She provides the Foundation with a wide range of administrative, project management and operational support. Ms. Neuner previously supported clinical research trials between U.S. Oncology Research and McKesson Specialty Health in The Woodlands, Texas. She graduated from Sam Houston State University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies in 2010. Active in the community, Ms. Neuner is a member of the Young Professionals Group for Casa de Esperanza de los Niños.