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Strong Woman: Valerie Shaw

Local retiree dedicates herself to giving back to the community.

After 36 years with Commerce Bank, Valerie Shaw spends her retirement volunteering, traveling, and working towards closing the racial disparity gap in Columbia.

68 years old.

Years in Columbia:
28 Years.

My son Garrett and his wife, Tilita, live in Nashville; my son Michael and his wife, Ryana, live in Kansas City. I have five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?
In terms of people, my maternal grandmother and my mother. I love reading positive quotes and generally select a word each year to help me stay focused on my goals. This year it is “grateful.” I am reminding myself to be grateful for the opportunities, strength, and abilities I have.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I am dedicated to community service, and since my retirement I’ve really gotten even more involved in activities to uplift our community. A primary focus for me is working to close the racial disparity gap in our community.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
That it’s not so much what you say, but rather how you say it. That lesson has allowed me to interact successfully in many difficult conversations.

What is your passion?
I am passionate about volunteering, especially in the African-American community, and seeing others succeed. I love working within my church and wish I had the talent to do more.

What does it mean to be a strong woman?
I believe that most, if not all, black women are strong. We seem to just rise to the occasion. I believe you must work hard, learn, and teach others along the way to help all you can.

What advice would you give a younger version of you?
Complete your education sooner. I was a nontraditional student and graduated from Stephens College at the age of 50 and earned my MBA at 53 years old.

What are five things that inspire you?
Family, church, friends, traveling, and volunteering.

What do you do for fun?
I go to movies, eat out with friends, and read. My most favorite thing to do for fun is traveling, however. I am in a small travel group, and we go somewhere every year. I have a long list of places we’ve been and another long list yet to go!

Where is your favorite place you have traveled?
The best was probably my trip to Italy! A group of friends with whom I was traveling spent Mother’s Day there in 2013, sitting on the Venice canals eating spaghetti, drinking the absolute best white wine, and reminiscing about how much we missed our kids. The trip took us to Rome, Milan, Venice, and Pisa. It was too wonderful! Such beautiful sites and history to experience. And the shopping! Magnificent trip!

Who do you admire most and why?
Teresa Maledy. She was my boss for about 20 years and I really learned a lot from her. She always seemed to manage her time and temperament so well. No matter what, she was encouraging and supportive.

What is a moment in your life that defined you personally or professionally?
When I divorced, I realized that my sons needed to be confident that I would always be there and could provide for them. Their happiness and well-being was my priority. It was during that lowest time in my life that I became the strongest.

What’s in your purse right now?
Business cards from at least 30 different people, several pens, a checkbook, some money, and at least five tubes of lipstick. Lipstick is my panic stick. When I’m stressed, frustrated, or just deep in thought, I put on lipstick and I’m good to go!

What is your guilty pleasure?
A Dairy Queen pecan turtle Blizzard! Yummy.

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