December 16, 2013
In recognition of 50 years of service to Mount Saint Mary
College, the Villa Library was recently named in honor of English
professor James Finn Cotter, of Newburgh, NY.
Cotter’s friends, colleagues and family – including his
siblings, his children, and his grandson, Dante – attended the
“James Finn Cotter has been described as a 21st century
Renaissance man, here at the Mount and in the wider academe
circles,” explained Fr. Kevin E. Mackin, OFM, president of Mount
Saint Mary College. “Jim simply has a passion for lifelong
learning, and his passion makes for great leadership.”
Cotter is the author of “Inscape: The Christology and Poetry of
Gerald Manley Hopkins,” “Beginnings: The First Twenty-Five Years of
Mount Saint Mary College,” and “A New Life: Learning the Way of
Omega.” As a scholar, he has penned articles on Hopkins, Dante,
Geoffrey Chaucer, Sir Philip Sidney, and J.D. Salinger. As poet and
literary critic, he’s been published in America, Commonweal, The
Hudson Review, The Nation, The New York Times, Sparrow, Spirit,
Thought, Times Herald-Record, and other periodicals.
A celebrated translator of Dante’s “Commedia,” Cotter is a
seasoned theater and arts reviewer, a recipient of a Fulbright-Hays
lecture grant to teach English in Algeria, a recipient of a
National Endowment of the Humanities grant, and president of the
International Hopkins Association for 30 years.
During the 50 years that Mount Saint Mary College has celebrated
commencement, only two people have led commencement procession:
Cotter and professor emeritus James McEnery of Cornwall, NY. He
first led the procession and was master of ceremonies from 1964,
when Mount graduated its first class of 32 students, through
Cotter also wrote the Mount’s alma mater in 1964.
In his five decades at the Mount, he has inspired scores of
students and fellow professors.
“It was said – and will be said – that you are an accomplished
scholar,” said Sr. Catherine Walsh, OP, professor of communications
and chair of arts and letters. “But I will also say that you’re an
Stephanie Weaver, a senior English major from Rockville Centre,
NY, wrote of Cotter: “You have focused not only on literature and
theory, but also on the intellectual development of your
The longtime professor gave a humble smile to the standing-room
only crowd at the library dedication.
“It’s a great honor,” said Cotter.
He pointed out that the year he began his tenure at the Mount,
1963, was also when author C.S. Lewis passed away.
“I’m a great fan of C.S. Lewis and his book, ‘Surprised by Joy.’
Certainly I’m surprised by joy today.”
He then proceeded to give a brief lesson from his book, “A New
Life: Learning the Way of Omega.”
Housed in what used to be the Mount’s first building, the
wood-paneled, Victorian-era James Finn Cotter Library has long been
an educational hub for some of the best and brightest presentations
the college has known. In addition to the Mount’s own academics,
the library has served as a lecture site for scholars like Nancy
Marie Brown, author of “The Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the
Pope Who Brought the Light of Science to the Dark Ages,” New York
Times best-selling author Stephen Mansfield, who discussed the
spiritually of our 16th president in “Lincoln's Battle with God,”
and Sr. Diane Kennedy, OP, the vice president for Mission and
Ministry of Dominican University in Illinois, who recently
congratulated many of the Mount’s Ralph and Aquinas Scholars.
In February at the James Finn Cotter Library, 1970 Mount grad
Sr. Jo-Ann Iannotti, OP will discuss literature and spirituality.
Her poetry has appeared in national and international magazines.
The event is free and open to the public.