The Alumni Medal is the highest honor the University bestows on a graduate. The following graduates were recognized for accomplishments in their professions, exemplary family and personal lives, contributions to their communities, and dedication to the University: Nancy Cunningham Benacci ’77; Tony Coyne ’82; Jack Kahl ’62; Chuck Kyle ’73, ’79G; and Bob Maynard ’58.
Lawyer, urban planner advances the city he loves
By Susan Curphey
From his Jesuit education, Tony Coyne ’82 adopted the ancient Greek philosophy to leave the world better than the way one found it. He has endeavored to do just that by playing a vital role in redevelopment projects in and around Cleveland.
A real-estate and business lawyer who also specializes in urban planning, Coyne is the managing partner of Mansour, Gavin, Gerlack & Manos Co., L.P.A., where he deals primarily in real-estate and commercial litigation and land-use law, including eminent domain and municipal law. His expertise in law and urban affairs has benefitted his hometown in countless ways.
For more than a decade, he has served as chairman of the Cleveland Planning Commission – the oldest planning commission in the country – where he served on the board for more than 20 years (appointed by three different mayors). He has held a leadership role reviewing and approving several significant developments involving the procurement of billions of dollars in new construction. Coyne has been instrumental in guiding significant initiatives, such as the new Medical Mart and Convention Center, the Flats East Bank and Euclid Corridor projects, as well as University Circle’s Uptown to name a few.
Mayor Frank Jackson also called on Coyne to chair Cleveland’s historic Group Plan Commission, which was re-established in 2010 – more than 100 years after its founding. In addition to raising construction money, the 11-member commission seeks endowment funds to ensure long-term maintenance and ongoing programming of public events on Burnham Mall and Public Square. This involves improving landscapes and streetscapes, as well as connecting downtown to the North Coast Harbor.
“It’s difficult to imagine a better person than Tony Coyne to lead Cleveland’s planning for development and revitalization in the early 21st century,” says Robert Brown, Cleveland’s city planning director.
Coyne, who grew up in the city’s Collinwood neighborhood as the son of a Cleveland policeman, isn’t giving up on the city.
“This town has a rich history and terrific diverse population, but we struggled with all sorts of issues in the ’60s, which started a decline,” he says. “I’ve always thought if we all hung in there as a community, we could make Cleveland a better place. And we have. It’s coming back. There’s an influx of people moving downtown. And neighborhoods such as Tremont, Ohio City, Shaker Square, and Kamm’s Corners have been revitalized.”
Coyne’s interest in urban development and public administration began while he was a student at John Carroll. During his internship with the Center for Neighborhood Development, he conducted a housing study on the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood, which prompted him to pursue a master’s degree in urban planning, along with a law degree from Cleveland State University, where he was honored as Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 2007.
Coyne believes providing quality education for Cleveland children is as critical to the city’s future as urban planning and redevelopment.
“We can have all these great projects from University Circle to downtown, but if we don’t improve the school system, we’re not going to be successful,” he says. “Now we have strong leadership at city hall and the school board, along with a cooperative state government to be able to transform how we govern our schools. We’re hopeful innovative educational opportunities are going to bode well for the city.”
Coyne learned to appreciate the value of education from his grandfather, an Irish immigrant. After graduating from St. Ignatius High School, he joined his older sister, Sheila Coyne ’79, at Carroll, where he majored in political science (with a concentration in public administration) and became interested in improving local government. To help pay for his tuition, he worked at Progressive Insurance in a cooperative education program through the Boler School of Business. He still found time to be president of the Irish Club, a member of the Student Senate, and co-founder of the Pre-Law Society at Carroll.
After graduating from law school, he moved to Ohio City, where he and his wife, Rachelle, have lived for more than 20 years and raise their three children. Coyne, who had worked alongside other students while at Carroll to renovate homes in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood, has long been supportive of programs that provide affordable housing for low-income families.
Coyne still strives to improve the lives of others and the city.
“Tony’s drive to make the community better is just a natural part of his identity,” says Matt Carroll, chief of staff for county executive Ed Fitzgerald, who has worked with Coyne on several civic projects. “He doesn’t see it as service; he sees it as fully integrated with his life.” JCU
To watch a video about Coyne, click here.