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Philanthropist Henry Goodman Leaves Behind a Legacy of Civic Good

Funeral services for philanthropist and civic leader Henry Goodman are set for Tuesday afternoon.  As a board member of organizations ranging from the Cleveland Orchestra to Cleveland State University, Goodman was a quiet but influential voice for change.  

Henry Goodman was Cleveland State University’s board chair when United Way CEO August Napoli was a development executive there. Napoli says Goodman laid the groundwork to transform the university from a commuter school to a significant academic presence in the city.  Under his oversight, CSU developed a Music & Communication building, the original Nance business college, the Levin College of Urban Affairs, a new residence hall and the Convocation center.

“It was really mostly because of the sense of the possible,” Napoli said.  “Henry didn’t take no for an answer.  He helped people dig deeper and work harder.”  

The Goodman family has a history in the Cleveland area that stretches back more than a century-- in both the furniture business and in philanthropy.  According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, four generations of Goodmans ran such outlets as the J.L. Goodman Furniture Company, Ethan Allen and White Dove Mattress. 

Goodman Furniture delivery truck [photo: Goodman family]

Family members also gained a reputation for philanthropy and community engagement, serving on the boards of the Jewish Federation, United Way, the Cleveland Foundation and the Cleveland Orchestra.

Former Jewish Federation president Steven Hoffman says that for all Henry Goodman accomplished, he never sought the limelight.

“Henry always worked through others,” Hoffman said.  “He wanted others to have the credit.  He wanted to work with others to make things happen.”

Hoffman added that, although Goodman remained behind the scenes, he had a tenacious spirit that saw projects through to completion.

“Henry was very competitive,” Hoffman said.  “A very competitive athlete in his day.  He was a real devotee of basketball – no bigger fan of Cleveland State basketball over the years.  He didn’t like to lose.  And he rarely did.”

For Napoli, Goodman set an example for everyone.

“He personified the philanthropic spirit that exists in all of us – giving of your time and your talent and your financial resources, when necessary.  He was the whole package,” Napoli said.

Goodman died on Saturday at the age of 86.

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