When Noreen Koppelman-Goldstein was growing up, she expected to get married and have children. She did not expect to study business, law or to help expand her father’s steel business, Midwest Materials.
Born at Mount Sinai Hospital in Cleveland and raised in Shaker Heights, she watched her father, Joseph Koppelman, and uncle, Harry Koppelman, move from one business to another: brewing beer, producing soda pop and finally developing a steel service center.
She attended Goucher College in Baltimore, came back to Cleveland to study at Mather College at Western Reserve, now Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, taught, got married and left the full-time workforce to raise her children.
She also worked part time as an educational writer for the Educational Research Council of America and returned to CWRU to earn her master’s degree as a reading specialist.
For a time, when her husband was working on his doctorate degree, Koppelman-Goldstein sold steel for her father from her home on Long Island, N.Y. It was a part of her training that became invaluable decades later.
“You learn a business through sales by meeting your customers’ needs,” she said.
“Steel really was a male business,” she said, often feeling that potential customers might not have taken her seriously. There was one advantage to being a woman in sales at that time: “They remember you.”
Much later, after the women’s movement took hold, she studied business at Adelphi University. Her first course was at a local library on Long Island. She then completed her master’s in business administration at Adelphi’s college campus.
Next stop was law school at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., where she graduated with a juris doctor in 1989.
Just about the time Koppelman-Goldstein entered law school, her parents went to a seminar about business succession. Only then did it cross her father’s mind to enlist her as a potential successor.
“My dad was anxious for me to come back and be part of the family business,” Koppelman-Goldstein said.
She moved to Cleveland to become vice president and general counsel of Midwest Materials, and then became president five years later.
She, in turn, has enlisted her son, Brian Robbins, to work with her as and CEO of the company, now located in Perry. He is the third generation in the business.
Koppelman-Goldstein said the company has 60 employees and a 200,000-square-foot warehouse with levelers, slitters and shearing equipment
Since returning to Cleveland, Koppelman-Goldstein has enjoyed diving into volunteering her time and donating to causes that give meaning to her life.
She has enjoyed being back in Cleveland so she can be involved with her children and grandchildren.
Her family has, for example, donated a fire truck to the Jewish National Fund and an ambulance to Magen David Adom. She has served two years as president at the Northeast Ohio chapter of the Jewish National Fund and previously was named a woman of valor. She also participates in the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s endowment committee and Silver Circle.
Koppelman-Goldstein attended Temple Emanu El, now in Orange, as a child and was confirmed at Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights.
In honor of her family, she supports B’nai Jeshurun Congregation’s programs, including the Holocaust Torah Program. She sponsors many programs at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood, including the Memory Project and Israel Then and Now.
She is a past president of the Lake County Bar Association, is on the board of Menorah Park in Beachwood and supports its Ai-Chi water exercise program. She also is on the Lakeland Community College Foundation board participating in its investment committee and sponsoring students to attend exhibits at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.
In terms of culture, she is active with Playhouse Square, supporting Joe Garry’s Broadway Buzz presentations.
“When I support an organization, I like to be involved in a project,” she said.
Koppelman-Goldstein said she keeps in mind this quotation from Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
– Jane Kaufman