Dr. Cotter
Dr. James Finn Cotter, Professor of English. (Photo by Mount Saint Mary College)

By Stephanie Weaver

William Shakespeare’s perception of greatness that defined his characters was established when he noted that “some individuals are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

In his tweed jackets and shined shoes, Dr. James Cotter is the epitome of the second part of Shakespeare’s definition of greatness. He is always prepared to share life lessons and wisdom inside and outside of the classroom.

Cotter celebrated his golden anniversary as an educator at Mount Saint Mary College (MSMC) last week. His career has been dedicated to teaching and sharing his passion for knowledge with the students for the last 50 years.

Sister Catherine Walsh, Chair of the Department of Arts and Letters, said that Cotter’s contributions to the college, and to the academic community at large, have significantly shaped his career and gained him the reputation of being a “Renaissance Man.”

He is a “deep thinker” and possesses “unflagging enthusiasm,” Professor of Communications and Theatre James Beard said.

His academic interests range from the works of Hopkins and Dante to Shakespeare and Emerson.

Cotter has published many literary and academic pieces; his most recent book, New Life: Learning the Way of Omega, was published in 2009. This book is a combination of prose and poetry that gives us a window into the aesthetic world of Dr. Cotter’s intellect.

Cotter’s classes are not merely about literature or composition theory. Cotter focuses on the intellectual formation of every student.

He is “what teaching ought to be like,” said Dr. Daniel Shea, one of Cotter’s colleagues and fellow professor of English.

He is encouraging and supportive of the academic endeavors of his students. He attends almost every student poetry-reading event and even reads some of his own pieces.

You can never end a conversation with Cotter without learning some nugget of information, whether it be through his conversations on literature or even his anecdotes about his past.