HOWARD S. COGAN
ITHACA - Howard S. Cogan, 78, whose distinctive voice has been a fixture on local radio stations for more than 60 years, died on Saturday, after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He recently marked his 57th wedding anniversary with his wife and longtime business partner in Cogan Associates, the former Helen Snyder.
Howard was born in Philadelphia, in 1929, the son of a shoe salesman, the late Lou Cogan and a secretary and musician, the late Celia Martin Cogan. When he was six, the family moved to Ithaca where his father became the shoe buyer for Rothschild's Department Store.
Howard was a graduate of Ithaca High School ('46) and Cornell University ('50, '80). At the age of 14 he became the youngest paid radio talent in the country when WHCU, one of the original 50 CBS Radio affiliates, hired him as an on-air announcer.
Howard's career as a self-described "adman" began after a less than successful experience managing a Cortland branch of his father's Ithaca shoe store, Lou Cogan Sample Shoes. He went on to help scores of retail businesses in the area grow and prosper, including Mansour Jewelers, Baker Miller Lumber, Bishop's Hardware, the Royal Court Restaurant and the First National Bank of Groton. A menu he designed for Hal's Delicatessen in the shape of a sandwich on rye features the "Howie Special" on one of its pages. His clients often became close family friends, one of Ithaca's many small town traits that he said no job on Madison Avenue could match.
From 1959 to 1969, Howard and Helen published the Town Crier, one of the first weekly "shopper" newspapers. Howard wrote all the ads, most hand drawn by a series of talented art directors, and a column, "The Night Mayor's Office, by Kaviott M. Torr". The column championed many local causes: public water fluoridation, construction of the Triphammer Road overpass at Route 13 and the original Ithaca Festival, which became the Hangar Theatre and inspired the annual Ithaca Festival.
Howard's lifelong love affair with Ithaca has become symbolized by his famous "Ithaca is Gorges" slogan with the "I" formed by a graphic of the Ithaca Falls.
In collaboration with a local artist in the early 1960's, Howard created the first "Slim Jim" or studio greeting cards, under the Campus Cards imprint. Howard's 30 year partnership with Charles Brodhead in The Communications Support Group brought a creative, modern marketing approach to vocational education nationwide with their "VoPro") Vocational professional) campaign to raise enrollment and reduce the stigma and peer pressure on teenagers wanting to learn a trade.
In 1978, at the age of 49, Cogan returned to Cornell University and earned a master's degree in communications, graduating with his son, Michael ('80) as the first parent-child simultaneous graduates in the university's history. For the following two decades, Cogan maintained his local advertising practice while teaching advertising and public relations at Cornell and Ithaca College.
One of Howard's courses at Ithaca College's Park School of Communications was "AdLab", a senior level class that made IC one of the dominant teams in the American Advertising Federation's (AAF) annual National Student Advertising Competition. He coached teams to five regional victories. In 1993, the team beat more than 100 other schools to win the national championship. As two-time chair of the AAF's Education Committee, he was instrumental in creating a scholarship program for minorities in advertising and public relations. AAF awarded him its Medal of Merit in 1991 for service to the organization. In 1999, a year after he retired from Ithaca College, the AAF named him the Advertising Educator of the Year at its annual convention in Washington D.C.
Howard earned a lifetime accreditation by the Public Relations Society of America, an achievement shared by just 3 percent of PR professionals in the country, and served as faculty advisor to the student chapters at Ithaca College and a small college in Pennsylvania.
Howard served two terms as a public member of the National Advertising Review Board, the appeals panel in the advertising industry's self-regulatory process for marketing claims and advertising ethics.
Howard's marketing work won many awards, including a national "Addy" in 1974 and the Elmira-Corning Ad Club's annual Silver Medal Award in 1976. In 2006, the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce and Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention and Visitor's Bureau recognized Howard's mutual love affair with Ithaca by presenting him with a Lifetime Achievement Award and creating an annual award in his name for important contributions to tourism and community service in the region.
In addition to his wife, Helen; Howard is survived by three children, Barbara (Jeffrey) Bedell of Liverpool, NY, Michael (Amie) Cogan of Germantown, MD, and Judy Cogan (life partner, Chris Devenpeck) of Ithaca; and five beloved grandsons, Alexander K. Bedell, Hayden and Grayson Miller and Jesse and Samuel Cogan; and by Erik and Carla Devenpeck. Other survivors include his sister, Elissa Cogan (Barry Chester) of Ithaca; brother-in-law, Bernard (Sondra) J. Snyder of Potomac, Maryland; and sister-in-law, Carolyn Cogan of Westmont, New Jersey and formerly Trumansburg, wife of Howard's late brother, Stewart. Howard also is survived by his stepmother, Elpia Cogan, and stepbrother Louis (Marlene) Tassi, both of Lighthouse Point, FL.
Howard's funeral is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on Monday, February 18, at Temple Beth El in Ithaca. A memorial service is tentatively planned for a later date at Ithaca College. In lieu of flowers or other expressions of sympathy, the family suggests a donation to Temple Beth El (tbeithaca.org
or 607-273-5775), the Franziska Racker Centers (rackercenters.org
or 607-272-5891), the Alzheimer's Association of Central New York (alz.org/centralnewyork
or 607-330-1647), or the Howard and Helen Cogan AdLab Fund at Ithaca College (Ithaca.edu
Funeral arrangements are by the Bangs Funeral Home.
The family will observe Shiva at their home, 109 Christopher Circle, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m.
Published by Ithaca Journal on Feb. 18, 2008.