For Minor Mickel Shaw, business, economic development and philanthropy are in her DNA. Born in Elberton, GA, her family moved to Greenville when she was 4 years old. Her father, Buck Mickel, was president of Daniel Construction Company, which later became Fluor Daniel, and was among the early advocates and architects of Greenville’s downtown revitalization. Her mother, Minor Mickel, was active in the Junior League, United Way, the Peace Center and many other organizations. Growing up, Shaw took note as her parents worked to improve their town.
Shaw earned a history degree, but when an aptitude test showed skills in time management and cost accounting, she took a job at Citizens & Southern (C&S) National Bank in Atlanta. “It was an analytical job, and it was fun,” she said. “You could figure out how to save money by doing something better. I was basically an efficiency expert.” She still draws on those skills to look at the big picture in her philanthropic and business pursuits, “pulling the parts together and then trying to connect the dots.”
After she married Dr. Harold Shaw, now an ophthalmologist at Jervey Eye Group, the couple lived in Charleston, Houston and Miami before returning to Greenville in 1979. She was focused on raising her three children, but became involved with the Junior League, the United Way and other organizations. Before long, she had helped launch the Roper Mountain Science Center, Ronald McDonald House and the Governor’s School for the Arts, and had played key roles in everything from the Greenville Spartanburg Airport Commission to the RiverPlace development.
“I like being involved,” she said. “That’s something my two brothers and I were taught: When you live somewhere, you need to try to give back and make it better. That was always ingrained in me. And if you do try to give back, it certainly makes your life a fuller life. You get more out of it than you give.”
How do you stay so closely involved with so many different organizations?
A lot of them intermingle, and my knowledge of one can help me with the others. My relationships and my involvement with the Hollingsworth Funds and the Daniel-Mickel Foundation helped me network with organizations and opportunities that have opened doors with the Duke Endowment, or with BlueCross BlueShield Foundation.
My family was always involved. My dad and mom were always very involved, and we would sit around the dinner table talking about business. I was always aware of community development, because my dad was so involved in that, and we talked about these things. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my parents.
Did you always want to focus on community development?
Community development and economic development have always been interesting to me. The whole family was involved in that. Growing up, I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout, and I first got involved in giving back to the community that way.
Because your family has a history of involvement in Greenville, do you feel a sense of responsibility to the community? And do you find it difficult to say no to community projects?
I do feel a sense of responsibility, but I am interested in a lot of different things: education, the arts, human services, economic and community development. And a lot of that overlaps. One thing leads to another. I do say no sometimes, but that’s what I grew up with, wanting to help. Not just what I grew up with but really my makeup – I’ve always enjoyed it and felt compelled to give back. I can’t really explain it.
I got involved in the S.C. Children’s Theater when we first moved back, and now I’m co-chairing their capital campaign. It was something for my two girls to do when they were young. And then I got involved in the Junior League, which I had been involved with in Charleston and Atlanta. I was president of the Junior League and that opened doors for me at Roper Mountain Science Center. We were involved in that from the beginning.
The Junior League helped train me well, and does a great job of training women in leadership skills, managing time, running meetings, organizational skills. It helped me get very involved in a lot of things. And it was one of the first organizations, back in the ’80s, to relocate to downtown Greenville when the revitalization was going on.
Did your knowledge of business, from Daniel Construction, and your work with C&S, help you in your philanthropic work?
Early on, I also got involved with the United Way, and from that I learned more specifics about the community and what it takes to run a good organization – the analytics of nonprofits. I was on the budget review panel, and that was at the detail business level. The job at the bank really has helped, because it combined looking at the big picture and winnowing down to details, and then also looking at the details to develop the big picture. Analytical skills really help you learn to run things more efficiently and leverage resources.
Who do you consider your mentors?
My mom and dad, along with Tommy Wyche and Roger Milliken. Hugh Chapman opened the doors for me to become a trustee for the Duke Endowment, and that’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done because it puts resources back in the Carolinas and works across the entire state. It has such an impact.
How did you become involved with the Airport Commission?
About 17 years ago, Roger Milliken approached me about putting my name in the hat for a seat. I had known him since I was a teenager through Daniel Construction, which did work for Milliken. I was really way out of my comfort zone, but I didn’t want to tell him no. My great uncle Charlie Daniel had been a primary mover in getting the airport built in 1962, and my dad was very involved, so it was carrying on a tradition. The legislative delegation votes on you, and I won the seat. It was totally different from anything I’d ever done, but it’s been fun and really interesting.
Tell us about the latest updates there.
We had to update, and we considered a new terminal, but it was much more financially feasible and effective to remodel the terminal we have. The architecture is extraordinary, and we updated that and updated security, processing, baggage, ticket counters, everything. We’re positioned for growth, and this will serve us for a long time. We know people would like more direct flights, and we are always working on that, though a lot of that is dependent on the airlines. Everything, including the garden, will be done by the end of October.
What do you think about Greenville’s transformation over the past 10-15 years?
I have a good perspective on that since my dad was so involved and I grew up with it. It is far superior to what I envisioned. RiverPlace has followed the vision of what we hoped, but it has far exceeded our vision. It was difficult in the beginning, when they reduced Main Street from four lanes to two and added the trees. These were important decisions at the time. It has taken off beautifully, but you can never rest on your laurels or stop working to move forward.
You have been involved with so many successful projects. Did you ever have a project fail, or that you thought would fail?
Even when something is successful, anything you’re involved in has ups and downs. That’s true for business and for nonprofits, and also life. You have to realize it’s not a straight line but has many detours. And you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and do things you might not feel qualified to do. The Airport Commission is a good example, and the Governor’s School is another. It was “build it and hope they come,” and they did.
What’s your take on work-life balance?
It’s hard. I’m involved with some boards that involve travel. I need to do a better job of work-life balance, but I wasn’t always this busy. I’ve always been involved, but my investment work (through Micco LLC) is flexible. I didn’t travel so much when the kids were growing up. It’s interesting: I got a lot busier once my children got older. Now I want to be home a bit more for my grandchildren, and eventually I will. But I’m still working on balance – I do the best I can.
I like to read and I also enjoy walking and hiking. I enjoy being with my family very much. We have nine grandchildren and it is really fun to be with them.
What issue is most pressing for Greenville?
You can’t just focus on one. In Greenville right now, we have the issue of increasing the graduation rate and making sure young people have the opportunity to further their education. A better-educated population is certainly important.
Because of all of the growth, we really do need more affordable and workforce housing. We need to bring the community together, developers, the city and county and organizations, and get on top of it. A lot of people have worked on this for a long time, but now we need to have a plan and execute that plan. Along with the growth we’re seeing downtown, we need to make sure we grow the right way and that we make sure we continue to have the community that we’re so proud of.