Barbara Cohen has been called many things: a force of nature, a true leader. In a letter nominating Barbara for this award, her colleague Kim Dumais wrote: “There are many individuals who have positively contributed to the success of the Natural Stone Institute and to the natural stone industry. Yet few have done it over the span of several decades as well as her.”
Barbara entered the stone industry in the 1970s, joining her father Malcolm in the family business then known as Domestic Marble and Stone. Her father was a big inspiration to her. She reflected that he gave her an opportunity to lead “in a time when it was unpopular for a woman to take over ownership of a company, to work in an industry that I love.”
Barbara has been a role model for women in a male dominated industry, in a time when there were few women in positions of authority or management. She supported people from all walks of life, regardless of where they were from, only wanting to see people who worked with stone do better and to learn from each other by being involved in the association.
During her board service Barbara contributed not only to strategic guidance, but also led the development of the “Color Plate” books and stone reference guides. She also provided substantial contributions to the version IV update to the iconic Dimension Stone Design Manual. Tennessee Marble Company president Monica Gawet, who served with Barbara on the board, called her a “true leader for all of us in the industry, male or female.”
Barbara became president of the MIA in 1998. During her term, she was committed to improving the association’s image by striving to have the most inclusive membership possible with the widest net of global representation on the board, so the industry would broaden its opportunities.
She was instrumental in improving the association’s technical services, particularly as she saw the void that the MIA was not filling to address technical standards in the industry. Barbara worked with Vince Migliore, former MIA Technical Director for whom this lifetime achievement award is named, helping to establish the association as the foremost authority in technical knowledge and assistance.
Barbara herself is a strong technical resource and loves teaching everyone she meets about natural stone. Longtime employee Ismael Garcia affectionately calls Barbara a force of nature
and explains her devotion to educating others. “You just need five minutes with her,” he says. “One story will turn into three and if you don’t learn 20 different things in those 5 minutes, something is wrong with you. You just need to sit and listen and learn.” Barbara has always advocated for opportunities for leadership among women in the industry, lending her staff support to the serve on the Women in Stone Steering Committee and financially supporting the initiative to inspire, empower, and advance hundreds of women in the stone industry. Yet her true legacy will be remembered for the passion with which she talks about natural stone.
“Stone has as much style as the clothes we wear—as the homes we build—as the architects can dream up in their beautiful designs,” Barbara said. Her love of natural stone, leadership philosophy, and contributions to the association now known as the Natural Stone Institute have resulted in significant advancements for the entire industry.
Nominations for the 2021 Migliore Award are being accepted until July 20. To learn more, visit www.naturalstoneinstitute.org/migliore.
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