A future so bright

New McNair Foundation gift will enrich learning for top scholars

Last spring, Bob and Janice McNair had a chance to reflect on the 20 years of the McNair Scholars Program at the University of South Carolina. Their landmark $20 million gift in 1998 established a generous scholarship fund that attracts the best out-of-state students to South Carolina, making the university competitive among top-tier institutions in recruiting academic talent. The scholarship is administered by the university's Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs, which operates out of the South Carolina Honors College and serves as home base for McNair scholarship recipients.

Looking ahead, the McNairs knew they wanted to secure the future of the program as well. So, last month, The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation made a new $18 million commitment that will increase the value of McNair Scholars awards from $15,000 to $22,000 per year and add $12,000 in academic-enrichment funds that each scholar can use over their four years at South Carolina.

“Bob loved the University of South Carolina and thought it should be the destination of choice for the nation’s top academic talent,” says Kristi Cooper, executive director of the foundation. “He knew education was key to be competitive in the world and earn a satisfactory living. As a steward of the resources he had been given, he wished to provide access to college for young people who may not be able to otherwise attend.

“As a result, Bob and Janice had the foresight to create the McNair Scholars program. Twenty-one years of success has demonstrated the wisdom of their decision. This new gift is evidence of the McNair Foundation’s lasting commitment to education.”

The gift is designed to maintain the value of McNair Scholars awards in relation to the cost of attendance and help ensure South Carolina remains competitive in attracting the nation’s high-caliber students. The academic-enrichment funds will allow McNair Scholars to pursue out-of-classroom educational experiences beyond the cost of attendance. In addition, the new gift will launch the McNair Signature Experiences, providing scholars with a faculty-led, travel-immersion learning experience in a major city.

“I’ve been privileged to know Janice and Bob McNair since they created the McNair Scholars program,” says Dennis Pruitt, the university’s vice president for Student Affairs and vice provost for academic support. “Their investments in our students and our university set in motion a transformation of our student body and of the programs and services we provide our students. We’re deeply grateful for their generosity.”

In its mission to provide a challenging and supportive educational environment, the McNair Scholars Program helped develop and inspire a multitude of learning enhancements at South Carolina that benefit other students as well. The program has provided opportunities in undergraduate research, study abroad, global learning, leadership and service learning, and internships.

McNair Scholarships have benefited more than 400 students whose academic, leadership and personal standards help raise the quality and reputation of South Carolina.

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