Ask Morris Friedman why he decided to give $2.5 million to YSU, and the answer is quite simple.
“We have a great, great country,” says the 95-year-old founder of United Steel Service Inc. in Brookfield, Ohio.
“I’ve lived here almost all of my life. My business has been successful, and I feel I want to give something back to the community that has given so much to me.”
YSU announced this month that Friedman and his wife, Phyllis, have donated $2.5 million to establish the Morris and Phyllis Friedman Chair in Engineering.
“With this gift, we’ll be able to establish a chair in engineering and attract an extremely talented faculty member to do research and to teach the next generation of engineers so that we can have extraordinary companies like this one continue to prosper in the Mahoning Valley,” President Jim Tressel told Friedman during a recent visit to the company. “I want to thank you for this incredible gift.”
Friedman founded United Steel Service, also known as Uniserv, in 1968. With more than 100 employees, the company is one of the nation’s largest steel-slitting plants.
He said the key to the company’s success “is having the right people and being considerate to the people who work for you. You can’t do it by yourself. Good people are hard to find.”
With the gift to the YSU Foundation, the university will establish and maintain a full professor faculty position in the Rayen School of Engineering and Engineering Technology, part of YSU’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Born in 1919 in Vapenik, Czechoslovakia, Friedman fled the impending Nazi occupation and came to the United States when he was 15 years old. His parents and two younger brothers would later die in Nazi concentration camps. In the United States, Friedman lived with relatives in the Bronx, worked in his uncle’s neighborhood grocery store and went to night school to learn English and to study to earn his American citizenship. He moved to Cleveland a year later, where he worked at a steel warehouse and fabricator owned by his uncles. After serving in a tank division in World War II, Friedman married Phyllis and returned to the steel business. He became president of Allied Metals in Niles, Ohio, and then founded United Steel Service.
Friedman recently published his life story in a new hardback book titled, Morrie: Only in America. He has donated several copies to Maag Library at YSU. Friedman remains chair of United Steel Service. His son, Steven, is chief executive officer.
YSU will present the Friend of the University award to the Friedmans at a dinner this spring. The award recognizes outstanding leadership and contributions to YSU and the community.