Colby Bicentennial Seal 1964-2013


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Celebrating the naming of Cotter Union, including surprising the namesake

A More Perfect Union
Honoring President Cotter was easier than keeping Cotter Union a secret

“As everybody around here knows,” said Colby board chair Lawrence Pugh ’56, “it is usually not a good idea to surprise Bill Cotter.” But surprised Cotter was, on Friday, May 23, when Pugh announced the board’s unanimous decision to rename the Student Union for him. The ceremony was, for many on the campus, the highlight of Commencement Weekend.

Nearly a year ago, Pugh said, ballots were distributed to the trustees. Then the real world began: keeping a secret, for all that time, from Bill and Linda Cotter.

The Cotters’ attention to detail and ability to detect anomalies are legendary at Mayflower Hill. None of the half dozen Colby administrators who knew about the plan dared, even in private, to refer to it as anything except “Project X,” and an elaborate plot, full of red herrings, was devised to explain the few changes in Friday’s normal schedule. Dean of the College Earl Smith was so sure that Cotter would twig to things that he wouldn’t allow the Cotters children, Deborah, David and Elizabeth, and other family members and friends who had been invited, to arrive on campus in their own cars. Instead, they were picked up off campus, driven in a van to Lorimer Chapel by Karen Bourassa, Colby’s scheduling and facilities manager, and hidden until the ceremony began. Even then Smith fretted that Cotter would see the van.


–Sally Baker