May 23, 2019
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -
James Finn Cotter, Mount Saint Mary College’s longest serving professor, once again was Master of Ceremonies at the commencement ceremony on May 18.
James Finn Cotter of Newburgh, N.Y., a professor at Mount Saint Mary College since 1963, led the procession of graduates at the 56th Annual Commencement ceremony May 18, marking his 40th times at the helm.
Cotter, the college’s longest serving professor, was once again Master of Ceremonies, just as he was for the Mount’s first graduation.
As traditional bagpipe music filled the air, Cotter led 600 graduate candidates to the Dominican Center Field, where the ceremony took place.
Cotter first led the procession and was Master of Ceremonies in 1964, when the Mount graduated its first class of 32 students.
During the 56 years that Mount Saint Mary College has celebrated commencement, only two people have led the procession: Cotter and professor emeritus James McEnery, who passed away in December of 2016.
McEnery was the only lay person and the only male instructor during the college’s first academic year in 1960, and served as Master of Ceremonies from 1971 through 1987.
The hefty ceremonial mace was first introduced in 1992. Representing the torch of truth, the mace incorporates the college motto, Doce Me Veritatem, and integrates, the cross within its flame. The mace also displays the college seal and the Dominican Sisters seal.
In addition to having enhanced the education of thousands of Mount students, Cotter is a celebrated translator of Dante’s Commedia, a Fulbright-Hays lecturer, and a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant. Cotter is the author of Beginnings: the First Twenty-Five Years of Mount Saint Mary College; A New Life: Learning the Way of Omega; and the Mount’s alma mater, which is sung at commencement.
The beloved professor has begun a phased retirement, though he has not yet selected when his final semester will be.
“I hope [students] leave my class with a love of the text,” said Cotter. “I very much enjoy reading what they wrote and helping them to improve.”