Remembering James Cotter

9.23.2022 Alumni News, Article, Faculty News
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We are saddened to learn of James Cotter’s passing on September 8. He was a longtime School of Business finance faculty member who was very proud of his 16+ years teaching Wake Forest students. His impact on students was significant; he was the recipient of the Horace Kelly Alumni Teaching Award in 2014, an award that undergraduate alumni vote on to recognize the faculty member who most contributed to their education and personal development, 10 years after their graduation. Several of James’ former colleagues reflect on working with him and the impact he had on the University and our students.

“James was the former President of the Faculty Senate”, recalls Michelle Steward, Associate Professor of Marketing and Caron-Lightcap Faculty Fellow. “I watched him work with our faculty colleagues across the College at a time when there was a divide. He built bridges with colleagues that we still walk along today. I watched him again and again over the years personally and professionally deliberately work at improving himself and those around him. Even when, maybe especially when, he made mistakes, he forged a path forward. It is a good day to appreciate those colleagues who shaped us in some way over the years.’”

Deon Strickland, Professor and L. Glen Orr Fellow, met James when they were students themselves. “James was a teacher from the moment I knew him. When I was a first year PhD student at UNC Chapel Hill, and James was a seasoned third year, he taught me the basics of Fortran – outside of class – so I could complete my summer project.”

“It would be hard to overstate the positive impact James Cotter had on the development of our undergraduate finance program,” reflects Undergraduate Finance Program Director Bill Marcum. When he started, there was no finance program. His constant input regarding the demands of the market and the need for our students to leave Wake Forest ready to compete with students graduating from the best universities in the world was, and continues to be, a driving force behind the success of our students. He was responsible for countless innovations in the way we prepare our students for life, and his influence was not restricted to finance students. All of us owe James more than we could ever repay.”

Ajay Patel, Professor and Thomas S. Goho Chair in Finance, has very fond memories of his interactions with James. “My earliest recollections of James are the lunches we had together when he was in the Calloway School and I was on the faculty at the Babcock Graduate School of Management. James had recently joined Wake Forest and reached out to me to get to know me. I had read most of James’ research so was happy to interact with him. Surprisingly, our lunch meetings weren’t about research. They really were about getting to know each other and our reactions to being at Wake Forest. Since the Babcock and Calloway schools were separate and housed in separate buildings, there was little interaction between the faculty. This was James’ way of reaching out to a finance faculty member in a separate school. I always commended him for doing that. In hindsight, that was typical for James. He loved reaching out to people and getting to know them.

As a colleague, he was wonderful to work with. He was admired and respected by his students. The undergraduate electives he taught in investment banking and investments prepared our students really well for their careers post-graduation. And he was always willing to step up and undertake additional tasks when asked. As an Area Chair, you love to have faculty like that on your team. I am so sorry that we lost a wonderful soul earlier than any of us wanted to.”

Share your own memories and condolences with James’ family and learn more about how to honor James’ life.