*My* Lunch with Mimi

photo[2]Mimi Barash Coppersmith opened the lively lunch event with the exclamation: “I’m approaching my 63rd year in State College. I came in 1950 at 17 years and two months!”

Clearly this diminutive powerhouse with her trademark white hair longer than she has worn it in years has got to be the best public relations woman State College has ever had or ever will have.

I felt honored to have been one of twenty-four women invited to Lunch with Mimi at the Tavern. I’ve only been living in State College two months since I started my new dream job at Schreyer Honors College and this lunch and the several other warm invitations I’ve received have made me feel welcomed beyond my imagination.

I was humbled and thrilled to be sitting with some of the most distinguished women in State College, including Debbie Linnes, the new Chief Operating Officer and Chief Information Officer of Mount Nittany Medical Center who recently relocated to State College from Minnesota. She spoke about the great resources we have at Mount Nittany Medical Center and she is certainly the newest and perhaps greatest resource this community could have. Her medical acumen is obvious and her warm presentation style and kindness impressed all of us.

Once everyone ordered lunch we went around and gave a two sentence (some went way over) introduction of ourselves. I couldn’t wait to tell the small world story of how I met Mimi. Her daughter Nan sold me advertising for Where and When magazine in the late 1980s when I worked in public relations in Allentown. With obvious pride, Nan Barash told me of her “mother the publisher in State College.” Twenty plus years later I got to meet Mimi Barash Coppersmith and it has been such an honor to get to know her.

I research and write about women in male dominated fields and Mimi is a case study if ever there was one. A successful business owner, she was an advertising and public relations entrepreneur in an era when “Madmen” dominated the advertising scene. She became the first chairwoman of Penn State’s Board of Trustees in 1991 and has been a philanthropist and fundraiser for countless organizations, including The Pink Zone, a passion stemming from her own victory over breast cancer.

At 80, Mimi still goes to the office every day and perhaps this lunch was part of the “year long birthday celebration” she described.

It sure felt like a gift to me. There was a lot of sharing, smiles, and warm feelings. Mimi even gave each one of us a beautiful fabric journal to encourage us to record our lives. (That’s one of the reasons I love to blog–thanks for reading)!

I got ten steps away from the restaurant when I realized I had forgotten my Town&Gown mug and I turned right around to claim it. It is a piece of State College history I want to have forever.

Ever-prepared, Mimi hosted by sharing a few of her favorite quotes. From Pearl S. Buck she said, “To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.”

And, well, that certainly sums up Mimi Barash Coppersmith. She continues to perform her work with excellence and I get the distinct impression that she is still very much enjoying it.

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