Mimi Barash Coppersmith has left an undeniable imprint on State College, Pennsylvania. Whether from her publications like “Town and Gown,” her philanthropies like the Pink Zone, or her civic activities like serving as Penn State’s Board of Trustees chair, Mimi has been a fixture since her arrival as an undergraduate in 1950.
To celebrate her 85th birthday, Mimi collaborated with her daughter Carol to craft an autobiography with charisma, stoic chutzpah and fascinating details of her life’s journey. “Eat First, Cry Later” presents 48 life lessons sprinkled throughout the narrative. Lesson #37 encourages “each of us to be successful, establish and maintain a voice and presence in public,” which, indeed, is how Mimi lives her life. Structured as a chronological journey, Mimi provides a captivating example of leadership, determination and savvy business acumen.
The book starts with tales of Mimi’s time as a Penn State student, her first marriage to Sy Barash and their work to start a business in State College. She tells readers to see what’s in front of them, challenge themselves and make a difference for others. She says, “In business relationships and personal relationships, focusing on others is not just important: it is crucial.”
Mimi participated in numerous community activities and charitable events. Around the time Mimi was elected as the first woman to chair Penn State’s Board of Trustees, she reflected on her years in State College. She said, “Nothing makes me feel more alive and essentially myself than being able to connect State College and Penn State in some new way that honors multiple points of view and opens up opportunities for people.”
The premature death of Sy Barash, her second marriage to Lou Coppersmith, a bout with breast cancer and more all detail her next series of lessons. To readers, she says, “The great work you do fades quickly… don’t rest on your laurels. Keep thinking about your next big idea.”
Mimi doesn’t shy away from the tough details of her life. “Eat First, Cry Later” discusses Mimi’s failed third marriage, reconciliations with her daughters, town and gown dust-ups and changing business models, including the sale of her own beloved business. She regales the reader with tales of the creative talents who worked for her over the years. One of my personal favorites is the indomitable Witt Yeagley, a former “Town and Gown” editor, who, indeed, was a local character.
Mimi sums up her personal philosophy in her final lesson. She says, “Bring hope and courage to others in these troubled times. That’s why we’re here; that’s all we have, and it is enough.”
Proceeds from the sale of “Eat First, Cry Later” will benefit study abroad scholarships in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State.
Reviewer Jackie Esposito is the special projects librarian and archivist at Penn State University Park.
The Schlow Centre Region Library will host an evening with author Mimi Barash Coppersmith on November 27 at 6:30.