Mike Brenan’s earliest recollections of philanthropic outreach date to his high school years in Ohio.
As president of his school’s Key Club and later as a college fraternity member, he began exploring the world of community service.
But the president of BB&T South Carolina said it wasn’t until he got involved with the local United Way in Bowling Green, Ohio, that “the rubber met the road” as far as philanthropic service. It’s a path he’s continued since coming to Columbia in 1999.
Brenan has been named the United Way of the Midlands 2012 Humanitarian of the Year, recognizing a community member who has exhibited extraordinary service and philanthropy. Brenan will be recognized Feb. 28 during the 29th annual United Way of the Midlands Humanitarian of the Year Dinner and Award Ceremony.
“Mike has made and continues to make an impact on his adopted community and state,” said Mac Bennett, United Way president and CEO. “As a community we are fortunate to be the beneficiary of his many gifts and talents.”
While philanthropic acts often target struggling individuals and families, Brenan believes such efforts also benefit the wider population.
“It’s just an investment in the overall well-being of the community,” he said.
It was largely that thinking, he explained, that fueled efforts to keep the area’s public transportation system viable.
As chair of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce this past year, Brenan helped secure the backing of other business leaders to promote the penny sales tax referendum for the bus system as well as improvements to roads, bikeways, greenways and more.
“Public transportation moves people,” Brenan said. “It moves people to work. It moves people to shop. All of this is good for the community and the economy. So this (support for the transportation system) is also a good business decision.”
Another passion is education, Brenan said, adding the community has to respond to new ways students are learning if it is to benefit from a stronger work force in the future.
Brenan praised the United Way for providing so many avenues for public service.
“It exposes you to so many different kinds of organizations that are trying to meet different kinds of needs,” he said. “It kind of makes you aware of the people in the shadows.”
Brenan began his banking career in 1975. Before moving to Columbia, he served as president and CEO of Bank One and chairman, president, and CEO of MainStreet Financial Corporation, a multi-bank holding company headquartered in Virginia. When BB&T Corporation acquired MainStreet in 1998, Brenan moved to Columbia to assume his role with BB&T as the state/group president.
Holt Chetwood of Wells Fargo, who nominated Brenan for the award, praised him for his leadership and his character.
“His commitment to our community’s most at-risk citizens can be seen through his work in this area,” Chetwood said. “He is a man of strong faith. He is a great example of servant leadership, and we are fortunate to have a community leader like him in the Midlands.”
Brenan directed his own praises to what he considers one of the most generous communities he has ever lived in.
“I’m amazed at how generous people here are and how easily those who have been blessed with resources share those blessings with others,” he said.
If you go
The 29th annual United Way of the Midlands Humanitarian of the Year Dinner and Award Ceremony will be Feb. 28 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, 1101 Lincoln St. The black tie event will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $65 per person, and advanced registration is required. To register, visit www.uway.org and click the Humanitarian of the Year link. Or call Katie Bullard at (803) 733-5419.