James Finn Cotters sons and daughter (front row, left to right: Jim, Anne, and John Cotter) attended the memorial service at the Mount and discussed the impact their father had on them and the surrounding community.
Members of the Mount Saint Mary College and local communities gathered to celebrate the life and legacy of longtime English professor James Finn Cotter on Sunday, May 1 in the Chapel of the Most Holy Rosary on campus.
Throughout the event, family and friends remembered Cotter – who passed away on January 8, 2022, at the age of 92 – through readings and prayer.
“Jim Cotter was a good man,” began Dr. Jason N. Adsit, president of the Mount. “He loved his family, he loved his students, he loved his colleagues, and he loved pursuing new knowledge for its own sake. He will be deeply missed, but never forgotten.”
The event offered friends and family the opportunity to share memories of Cotter and honor his contributions to the community. As summarized by Fr. Gregoire Fluet, the college’s director of Campus Ministry and chaplain, “Today we come together to celebrate. To celebrate his life, to celebrate the gifts he brought among us, to celebrate the gifts he brought to Mount Saint Mary College, to celebrate the very person, Jim Cotter.”
Cotter, a prolific writer and poet, is most remembered by the Mount community for his passion for learning and teaching. But to his children, Anne, Jim, and John Cotter, he was defined by much more.
“He was an educator, a scholar, a writer, a poet, a lover of art and nature, a devout Catholic, and a devoted friend and family man,” stated Anne Cotter. Added John Cotter, “He taught through examples, and he lived a life that was an example to all of us on a life well lived.”
Professor Emerita Irene Walsh Nunnari was the final speaker of the afternoon. She focused on her memories of Cotter through his poem “For Jean Tuthill.” The poem, a reminder of how the Mount used to be, begins with the ordinary details. However, according to Nunnari, “in the end, being James Finn Cotter, it spirals up, into the metaphysical.”
In addition to a number of readings written by and dedicated to Cotter, Sr. Peggy Murphy, OP, sang “We Remember” by Marty Haugen, a hymn that she states was one of Cotter’s favorites.
“Jim had a tremendous and deep love of our Catholic faith. Actually, a deep love of life,” she stated. “Jim was aware of the beauty in life, in people, in nature.”
Sr. Murphy later closed the celebration with the singing of the Alma Mater, written by Cotter and his wife, Emily, a few years after he began teaching at the Mount in 1963.
For nearly 60 years, Cotter shared his knowledge and passion with the Mount community through his love for poetry, literature, and scholarship. While there are many ways to describe him, Cotter’s legacy and views on life are best described in his own words, as written in the final lines of his poem, “The Day I Die.” It reads, “You see, there is one surety to life’s finality. What will be, will be.”