Harvey David Cohen was born in Cincinnati, OH, on June 3, 1921, the oldest of five children. He attended Hughes High School and the University of Cincinnati as a scholar-athlete, receiving honors for both his academic and diving successes. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Harvey set aside his education to answer the call for troops. With only one year of undergraduate studies remaining, he enlisted in the US Army on August 18, 1942. Upon first arriving at the training base, Harvey learned that a search for a bugler had been unsuccessful. Even though he had never played this instrument, he volunteered, confident that his talent on piano, violin and guitar would enable him to learn this instrument quickly. Luckily, Harvey’s musical abilities did indeed extend to this wind instrument. During most of the war Harvey taught code for the Military Intelligence Service. The Army Aviation Corps tapped his knowledge of code and he was among the few who flew the Hump, the term used for flying over the Himalayan Mountains, which was known to be extremely dangerous with the dearth of reliable charts, radio navigation aids and weather reports. After the war he returned to the University of Cincinnati to complete his undergraduate studies, eventually earning his Doctorate of Law there in the spring of 1947.
Janet Guttman Cohen was born March 31, 1925, in Cincinnati, OH. Her parents were respected, involved members of the Wilmington, OH community who developed Janet’s broad knowledge, values, manners and grace. Her mother, a fifth grade math teacher, enrolled Janet in Girl Scouts, and in elocution, tap, toe and ballet classes at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Janet was a cheerleader at Wilmington High School and worked after school and on weekends at her father’s store,
The Paris, in downtown Wilmington. While attending Miami University in Oxford and Ohio State, she majored in business administration, though if truth be told she not only majored in social life, she mastered it. She pledged Sigma Delta Tau and organized many of its themed socials and benefits. Over the summers during WWII, Janet helped the war effort by working at the Glider base in Wilmington and at Patterson Field in Dayton. Janet knew Harvey since she was twelve years old, often visiting the Cohen home to play with his sister. But, it wasn’t until their 20’s in the summer of 1947 that cupid’s arrow hit.
Four months later on October 16, 1947, they eloped. That fall he started his professional career at a local law firm and she quit her job at Mabley & Carew to make a home for them. She was creative and frugal, enjoying her search for the finest antiques to fill their home. Janet saved the money their parents gave them when they married and put away a portion of every paycheck. Eventually they used this bounty as a down payment on their first house.
On August 12, 1949, they welcomed their only child Frances Ory Cohen to the world and doted on her. She instilled in Fran a strong, independent character and honest and caring values. When Janet’s only brother Sam died in a home fire, she reared his children Kim and Scott for much of their early lives. During these years, Janet led a Brownie Troop, worked for a health clinic for underprivileged pregnant women, and later volunteered at Heart Mart (a local non-profit auxiliary) while continuing her practice of saving, which eventually gave them their start in real estate development. In 1959, they bought their second home in a new development--Hilton Head Island, SC--before venturing to commercial real estate.
Cincinnati attorney turned developer Harvey Cohen was attracted to a project’s potential and he found the most intriguing challenges in urban revitalization. By developing surrounding properties, Harvey turned the once quiet Skywalk of downtown Cincinnati into a bustling commercial area. Recognizing his propensity for risk-taking, the city approached him to develop a fringe area then known as Harry’s Corner. The expansive Convention Place Mall resulted. The renewal project closest to his heart was the old Cincinnatian Hotel--a downtown landmark since 1882, where he and Janet honeymooned. When its charm was restored in the 1980’s, Harvey and Janet retired to Naples, Florida.
In their personal lives, they lived by the 10 Commandments, known for being honest and good-hearted, and they often exhibited a wonderful shared sense of humor. In business, Harvey’s word was his bond and his handshake was stronger than any contract.
Harvey and Janet established this scholarship fund on August 2, 2006. Later, when it came time to consider their legacy, Harvey stated simply, “It’s about humanity.” Before they could finalize their other legacy contributions, on July 17, 2010, their daughter Fran died of breast cancer. Harvey’s heartache caused his health to deteriorate quickly and he followed her in death on February 27, 2011. Harvey and Janet both had recognized the importance of a student union where students are engaged in activities beyond the classroom. In this center, enduring friendships, lifelong leadership skills and the values of civility, cooperation and caring are developed, and these were the interactions, skills and values that were important to the Cohens’ own success in business and in life. Janet was especially fond of this facility because it is alive with activity and laughter.
When Janet presented their legacy gift to the University, through her tears she endearingly referred to the student union as “Harv’s Place.” In recognition of that significant and meaningful gift to enrich the college experience, Florida Gulf Coast University dedicated the student union to them on January 10, 2012. Even before the building was dedicated “Harvey and Janet Cohen Center,” the student body was already referring to their place away from home as “Harv’s Place.”