Ruth Nicholson: Marie Monroe

The Community Foundation bestows its highest honor, the Ruth Nicholson Award, to a woman using lessons learned from her foremothers

Some mothers pass down recipes or perhaps a favorite engagement ring. But the heirloom passed from one matriarch to another in Marie Monroe’s family isn’t a thing, but a thought: a deep-seeded dedication to community service. “My mother was a social worker and my grandmother was a nurse,” the Greenville lawyer explains. “I would visit my mother at work and it was eye-opening. The aspect of wanting to do my part in helping, I get that from my mother and grandmother.”

The only child of divorced parents, Monroe grew up in rural Laurinburg, North Carolina. Her mother died when she was 11, leaving her grandparents to raise her. “It was unconventional, but I wasn’t unhappy,” she shares. “If I did complain, my mom and grandmother would say, ‘Reach outside of yourself and see what you can do to help the community.’” It was a mantra molded upon her heart, as she watched her mother help the hopeless and her grandmother start a hospice.

Ruth Nicholson Award, Marie Monroe. Photograph by Eli Warren

Accustomed to change, Monroe headed to Maine for college, where she met her husband, Jeff Dunlaevy. They eventually landed in South Carolina, where Dunlaevy attended law school, and by 2001, the two attorneys had set up a home and careers in Greenville. Once established at Merline & Meacham, Monroe knew it was time to follow through with the Monroe matriarchs’ life lessons. 

Her first stop: a position on the board of Gateway House. “For me, it was a great learning opportunity about all these groups in Greenville and the great things people are doing,” she explains. “I got my feet wet and learned how a nonprofit should run and what the issues are.” Her next service post was the erstwhile YWCA. The estate-planning lawyer’s volunteer obligations soon grew to include the Community Foundation.

The busy mother of two just wrapped up serving six years on the foundation’s board of directors, where she particularly enjoyed making site visits for a grant committee. “I’m just a curious person,” she admits. “I love going to places and taking tours. It’s so very meaningful to these organizations to get that money.” Marie enjoys operating behind the scenes, where her legal and budget acumen are needed to keep philanthropic service groups running smoothly.

Francis Patterson, a shareholder of Elliott Davis, has served alongside Marie for almost a decade. “She’s a great addition to any nonprofit board, because she really digs in,” the CPA says. “She’s a very strategic thinker in addition to being empathetic, and that’s an excellent combination for the type of works she’s done.”

Marie contributed to our work in so many ways. As Chair of the Grants Review Committee, she personally reviewed hundreds of grant applications. She then led a group of board members and volunteers in the thoughtful investment in technology, strategic planning, and marketing to increase the impact of local nonprofits. She is a smart and caring person.”

—Bob Morris, president of the Community Foundation of Greenville


In addition to working with Meals on Wheels, the long-time animal lover now holds a seat on the board of directors for the Greenville Humane Society and has also assisted with The Chandler School, which serves children with language-based learning difficulties.

Greenville is lucky to have adopted this attorney, who is committed to sharing her skills to help others. Says Monroe, “It’s like my mom and grandmother said, ‘You need to concentrate on the bigger picture, and there’s no bigger picture than helping people who need help.’”