His friends described him as a very unassuming man. They called him down-to-earth and simple.
If you had bumped into Michael McDaniel at a store, you might never have guessed he was worth several millions of dollars, Wayne Steffey said.
Although McDaniel was always ready to lend a helping hand, he never sought attention. Rather, he hated any publicity.
“He preferred to work behind the scenes,” Stephen Shadle, trustee and close friend, said. “He was very humble, very genuine. He believed in helping people when he could.”
“He was a very shy man. He never needed the spotlight,” Judy Gresser said.
But McDaniel’s generosity during his life and after is now shining a bright spotlight on him.
After battling cancer for 20 years, McDaniel succumbed in March, leaving behind millions of dollars to cancer care in Yuma.
The Yuma Community Foundation honored him posthumously at the Heart of Yuma Awards on Oct. 30.
"Mike McDaniel was amazing in the guidance he offered the Yuma Community Foundation. He offered very sound advice and guidance,” said Gresser, western regional manager for YCF.
For many years McDaniel, a retired electrical engineer and farmer, served as president of the Stephen H. and Rose P. Sturges Charitable Trust, which provides funds for scholarships.
“He was a great believer in education,” Shadle said.
It was at the Heart of Yuma Awards that Shadle announced the multimillion dollar gift that will impact thousands of lives for years to come.
The initial gift will be more than $2 million, but eventually more than $10 million will go to the McDaniel Endowment Fund for cancer care. A lot of the money will come from the sale of McDaniel’s farmland.
He also provided $1 million for an Arizona State University Math and Engineering Department endowment scholarship fund in the name of his mentor, Professor Charles Wexler.
After providing for his family and friends, including daughter Victoria Click of Tucson, son Greg Schultz of San Diego and companion Carol Land, the rest of his estate will go to the new Yuma Regional Cancer Center and the fight against cancer in Yuma.
“Eventually all of his estate will go to charity,” Shadle said, noting that McDaniel set up the endowment funds in the memory of his parents, who also battled cancer.
Steffey, executive director of the Foundation of Yuma Regional Medical Center, called it the biggest gift his organization has received.
The funds may be used for medical students and nursing scholarships, cancer research, medical equipment for the YRMC Cancer Center or other similar activities centered on the diagnosis, cure and treatment of cancer in the Yuma area.
"He gave us fairly broad latitude,” Steffey said.
McDaniel worked with the foundation in setting up the endowment fund and figuring out how the funds should be used.
”He very much wanted to benefit the community,” Steffey said. “It’s a wonderful legacy for someone to leave in their estate. It’s going to be lasting.”
Mara Knaub can be reached at email@example.com or (928) 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.