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Margot Copeland

Corporate executive Margot James Copeland was born on December 4, 1951 in Richmond, Virginia. She was the only child to her parents, Reverend William Lloyd Garrison James, a Baptist minister, and Thelma Taylor James, an eighth grade math teacher. Copeland earned her B.S. degree in physics from Hampton University, and her M.A. degree in educational research and statistics from The Ohio State University.

Copeland began her corporate career at Xerox Corporation, Polaroid, and Picker International. In 1992, she was hired as executive director for Leadership Cleveland, a program of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association that develops community leaders. After seven years at Leadership Cleveland, Copeland became president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Roundtable, a nonprofit organization founded to improve multicultural and multiracial relations in the Cleveland area. She joined KeyCorp in 2001, and served as executive vice president - director, corporate diversity and philanthropy and as an executive council member. KeyCorp is one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies and, within her position as chair and CEO of the KeyBank Foundation, she managed the company’s annual $20 million philanthropic investment program and oversaw diversity initiatives. KeyCorp has been included in DiversityInc magazine’s list of 50 Top Companies for Diversity in 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2009 and ranked 13th among the most generous cash giving companies in America in a 2003 list published by BusinessWeek. In 2013, the KeyBank Foundation was recognized as a Civic 50 Company by the National Conference on Citizenship, Points of Light and Bloomberg LP.

Copeland has participated in a number of community organizations and boards. In 2010, she became the fifteenth president of The Links, Inc. She has also served as the president of the Junior League of Cleveland, Inc., sat on the Kent State University board of trustees, acted as Mentor/Protégé Program Advisor for Morehouse College, and is a member of the Business School Advisory board at Hampton University.

Copeland was listed as one of the “100 Most Powerful Women in Cleveland” by New Cleveland Woman magazine, and in 2012, Savoy magazine included her in a list of the “100 Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America.” She is also the recipient of the YWCA Career Woman of Achievement Award; was the 2006 Black Professional of the Year as recognized by Black Professionals Association Charitable Foundation; received the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Community Service Award; and the W.O. Walker Excellence in Community Service Award, sponsored by the Call and Post newspaper. Copeland also received the distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award in 2013 from Hampton University.

Copeland lives in Cleveland, Ohio and has three children, Reverend Kimberley, Dr. Garrison, and Michael Copeland.

Copeland was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 10, 2014.

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Hampton University

The Ohio State University

Matoaca High School

Giles B. Cook Elementary School

Westview Early Childhood Education Center

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Favorite Quote

Cry Out Of One Eye.$

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Favorite Food

Blue Crab

Short Description

Corporate executive Margot Copeland (1951 - ) served as the executive vice president of diversity and chair of the foundation at KeyCorp from 2001. She was also national president of The Links, Incorporated.


Xerox Corporation

Polaroid Corporation

Picker International

Leadership Cleveland

Greater Cleveland Roundtable


KeyBank Foundation

Ohio State Legislature

Ameritrust Bank

Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Margot Copeland's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Margot Copeland lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Margot Copeland describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Margot Copeland talks about her mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Margot Copeland talks about the role of Petersburg, Virginia in the Civil War

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Margot Copeland describes her mother's upbringing in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Margot Copeland describes her mother's involvement with The Links

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Margot Copeland describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Margot Copeland talks about her paternal grandfather

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Margot Copeland describes her father's upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Margot Copeland talks about her father's career as a minister

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Margot Copeland describes how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Margot Copeland describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Margot Copeland describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Margot Copeland remembers her community in Petersburg, Virginia, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Margot Copeland remembers her community in Petersburg, Virginia, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Margot Copeland recalls her early experiences of religion

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Margot Copeland remembers the racial tensions at Matoaca High School, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Margot Copeland remembers the racial tensions at Matoaca High School, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Margot Copeland recalls her elementary school education

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Margot Copeland talks about her early interest in science

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Margot Copeland remembers attending a pre-college program at the Hampton Institute, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Margot Copeland remembers attending a pre-college program at the Hampton Institute, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Margot Copeland remembers her time at the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Margot Copeland remembers her astrophysics courses at the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Margot Copeland talks about the environment at historically black colleges

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Margot Copeland recalls her admission to The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Margot Copeland describes her graduate programs at The Ohio State University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Margot Copeland recalls her graduate math courses

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Margot Copeland remembers working for state legislator William L. Mallory, Sr.

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Margot Copeland remembers joining the Xerox Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Margot Copeland talks about her role at the Xerox Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Margot Copeland remembers her transition to the Polaroid Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Margot Copeland talks about her maternal uncle, Theodore Taylor

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Margot Copeland remembers the economic boycott of Richmond, Virginia

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Margot Copeland recalls her father's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Margot Copeland describes her work at the Polaroid Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Margot Copeland remembers leaving the Polaroid Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Margot Copeland talks about her early community involvement

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Margot Copeland talks about the history of The Links

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Margot Copeland describes The Links' organizational structure

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Margot Copeland talks about her involvement in The Links, Incorporated, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Margot Copeland talks about her involvement in The Links, Incorporated, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Margot Copeland recalls her start in the Junior League

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Margot Copeland describes her philosophy of organizational leadership

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Margot Copeland remembers her presidency of the Junior League of Cleveland, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Margot Copeland recalls serving as executive director of Leadership Cleveland

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Margot Copeland remembers hosting a gang leader as a guest speaker at Leadership Cleveland

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Margot Copeland remembers taking leaders to women's prisons in Ohio

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Margot Copeland remembers taking leaders to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Margot Copeland remembers her involvement on the Cleveland Bicentennial Commission

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Margot Copeland remembers the Cleveland Browns' departure from Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Margot Copeland talks about Michael R. White's mayoralty of Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Margot Copeland describes her work with the Greater Cleveland Roundtable

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Margot Copeland talks about her previous positions

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Margot Copeland describes her work with the KeyBank Foundation

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Margot Copeland describes the KeyBank Classrooms for STEM Education program

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Margot Copeland describes the role of civic engagement at KeyCorp

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Margot Copeland describes her plans for the future

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Margot Copeland talks about the importance of community service

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Margot Copeland recalls her mentorship of an aspiring biomedical engineer

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Margot Copeland reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Margot Copeland describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Margott Copeland narrates her photographs







Margot Copeland remembers attending a pre-college program at the Hampton Institute, pt. 2
Margot Copeland recalls serving as executive director of Leadership Cleveland
I go down to pre-college and on the way down to Hampton [Virginia], you would've thought somebody was taking our family to a funeral. I'm in the back seat of the car crying, my father's in the front seat crying. He and I are both softhearted so that was natural. When my mother [Thelma Taylor James] started to cry, then I knew something was wrong. My mother was not a crier (laughter). But--so it was an emotional time taking your child even though it was pre-college and Hampton is much closer to Petersburg [Virginia] than going to Raleigh [North Carolina] to go to school--I mean not Raleigh, Durham [North Carolina] to go to school. But anyway we got over the sepera- we got through the separation if you will. And within about forty-eight hours I'd become quite acclimated to being not only away from home but to be in that beautiful Hampton Institute [Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia] at that time although I was not gonna be matriculating there for the fall. Well in the middle of the six week period, I got a note to come over to the registrar's office which I did, and I spoke to one of the admissions directors and he said that--he complimented me on how well I was doing. I was taking freshman level math and English, and what have you. He said I was doing well midterm, I was doing quite well and what have you, wanted to know if I 'wanna think about, you know, staying and going to Hampton for undergrad versus going to North Carolina [North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina]. And I was flattered, and I said wow, and I thought about it for a while, and my dad being a minister his big day off was always on Monday. So of course when I was in Hampton every Monday my father was in Hampton. He would drive on down there--he'd come and spend Monday afternoon with me anyway, so I don't know what day I was talking to this gentlemen. But all I know is the second meeting said, well my father will be here on Monday. Can I get him involved in this conversation? That's before cell phones, computers, and text, you know, and so daddy came and we went back to see the man and he told him, "Reverend James [William James], your daughter's done so well we would love to see her come here." And I began to ask him some questions about, you know, scholarship I said I had you know, I didn't have a big scholarship to North Carolina--if I had a nice one, you know it was recognizing my academic ability. And I said I've got a scholarship here, you know, what can you do help us do this. My father was so struck by the fact that he sat in that conversation and was proud of me--of how I negotiated getting money to go to school at Hampton, not a complete scholarship but a nice complement to what my parents were gonna have to pay. Anyway, he went back home and told mom, "Well it looks like she's gonna go to Hampton because she's done all these things, she's negotiated her money, got a little bit more money than I got to North Carolina." And my mother just revolted to him, she said, "She's not old enough to make a decision like that, how dare she decide--she's going to UN- North Carolina Central." And he said, "Margot's [HistoryMaker Margot Copeland] going to Hampton, because she has already committed. That's where it is," and my mother did call me, and there was a--one telephone booth on the floor that all these girls in the dorm had to share, and you could barely get a call through. But of course that call came through and my mom and I talked and I was very clear. I used the clarity I learned from her, I was very clear that this was gonna be my choice, and I said, "I don't wanna go to another place and get adjusted all over again." I said, "I'm adjusted, I like it." I said, "It's a topped named HBCU [historically black colleges and universities], you know, everybody's going to Howard [Howard University, Washington, D.C.], I'm going to Hampton." And so, and so that's what where--so Hampton chose me. Hampton pulled me back in and there are a lot of things in life, if you look back and you'd like to do over, or change, or adjust, the best decision, best decision in my life was going to Hampton. It was just incredible.$$We spent like the last two years interviewing black scientists. And we spent a lot of time at Hampton, now people who are there now undoubtedly were not there when you were there.$$Right.$$But they are associated with the Jefferson National Accelerator [Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, Newport News, Virginia] over there and a lot of things going on at Hampton. The physics department is re- is really, you know, doing things.$Now during the same period of time, here comes Leadership Cleveland you go (laughter), you're like building steam.$$Yeah, yeah, yeah. Leadership Cleveland really came as a result of my presidency with the Junior League [Junior League of Cleveland, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio]. So as--when I was president elect, I was a member of the Leadership Cleveland class of 1991. Boy is this documentary dating me and--but anyway I was a member of the class and again a great set of peers that I got to know and meet. And then I was president from '91 [1991] to '92 [1992]. By the time I was a past president of the league, my active days as a Junior League member began to wane, because you know, you've been the president and I be- once you turn forty you can become an alum. So I, I applied for alumni status. I'd already actively served about fifteen years in the league so it was time. It was time to begin replenishing ourselves. We have younger women coming in and others, you know, moving on. I don't believe in older women, you know, holding up all the--holding all the top jobs so the younger women can't advance and move forward. I'm a real proponent of bringing along younger people. But anyway so Leadership Cleveland came in my life as a--first as a participant in the class of '91 [1991] and by the fall of '92 [1992] I found myself in the job. I'd taken a leave of absence from Picker International [Picker International, Inc.], had--with all their support. And when it was time for that year to come back, I remember my manager calling me, he said, "Okay you got your year back." He literally--it wasn't that he held the job for me, but he had a place for me at Picker and invited me to, you know, come back and, and come back and regain, you know, the te- be a part of the team at Picker. And during that time, the directorship for Leadership Cleveland had opened. God lines up all the stars. He has a plan and I tossed my hat in the ring as the director, executive director of Leadership Cleveland. Great mentor of mine, probably the mentor. I've had many along the way, Carole Hoover. Carole Hoover was a senior executive with the Greater Cleveland Growth Association [Greater Cleveland Partnership], which at that time was the chamber of commerce for greater Cleveland that Leadership Cleveland program reported up through to her and with her encouragement and the encouragement of others, I was selected as the executive director, Leadership Cleveland, becoming the first black director of Leadership Cleveland. And I ran that program for about eight years from '92 [1992], my last class was a class of '99 [1999] and in a class it was always fun putting those classes together. You would have CEOs or you would have clergy and head of the labor union and, and somebody who works in the social services or in the arts world or what have you. There was one meeting where I had this, this--the COO of Lincoln Electric [Lincoln Electric Company] and the CEO of the Midnight Basketball League and at the opening dinner I placed everybody where they were gonna be I sat them together. Where else would the two of them come together and meet. So and the learning, the learning that you would get, you know from that sort of thing. There was one session in Leadership Cleveland where you know, you can go and listen to the practitioners talk about, you know, issues. I like to demonstrate the issues, you know, for that the community had. These are established accomplished leaders so they don't need me to introduce them to problems (unclear) has the whole bombard of--of barrage of speakers coming talking about topics. I wanted to--them to actually touch and feel and see. So we had a session around quality of life. And I had them all arrive that morning around 6:30 A.M., most of them are up and moving, these are powerful folks, they're up early anyway. But it was a December, it was freezing cold outside, and I--we told them to leave their coats in the car. And when they got to the church where we were having this session, the door was locked and they were all lined up in the cold. And this real gruff, wiry looking man came out, pushing a cart and gave each one a pa- a brown paper bag, with a carton of milk, a Twinkie and a banana in their bag, well that was their breakfast. They were accustomed to coming into a place and getting a nice warm cup of coffee or tea and having continental breakfast. That was their breakfast and we made them stan- they were pounding on the door--they were so upset with me and we inside church looking at them pou- because they were freezing and we made 'em do that for thirty minutes and they were not happy. But the demonstration was this is what it feels like to be a homeless person getting ready to start their day on a December cold morning. They got it, they got the point. Same thing I took them to the Hospice of the Western Reserve [Cleveland, Ohio] so they--so the hospice was not just something that you heard about or maybe unfortunately experienced. But at least--you actually talk to people who are in--going through the process or families going through the process with a loved one.