There will also be a Cotler Prize, awarded to the student who, in the opinion of the faculty, demonstrates the greatest exuberance and love of learning. Our dad was nothing if not exuberant, and the only thing he loved more than learning was helping others develop their own intellectual curiosity.
You couldn’t have a conversation with my father without learning something new. You simply couldn’t.
Our family has donated $50,000 to establish the Steve Cotler Fund within the endowment. When the balance reaches $225,000, the Fund will endow a Cotler Scholar and full financial aid each summer for a teenager who embodies exuberance and love of learning … as Steve did.
Photo: My dad on one of his hundreds of school visits. He wrote the beloved Cheesie Mack series for middle grade children.
My dad was also there at the genesis of Lady Whistledown as a character. He had some things to say about her…
A message from Steve’s children:
On June 29, 2021, our father Steve Cotler was killed by a drunk driver in a crash that also took the life of his youngest daughter, the noted cartoonist Violet Charles. Violet’s beloved service dog Michelle also perished in the crash.
A native of Oxnard, CA, Steve’s life was forever changed when he was selected to participate in a program for the state of California’s brightest teenage students (boys only at the time), called The Summer Science Program. In Steve’s words: “SSP was one of the USA’s positive and extraordinarily successful reactions to Sputnik shock. We were high school juniors—future rocket scientists—sequestered for six weeks and intensely challenged with cosmology, astrophysics, spherical geometry, and the like. In that techno-world decades before iPhones, internet, and PCs, we were, I suspect, the only teenagers in the world with daily access to a real computer.”
Steve attended Harvard College and Harvard Business School and worked for many years in the corporate world. But his true passion was writing. He spent many years as a screenwriter before discovering what his family knew all along: his heart had never lost the spark of an 11-year-old boy. He wrote the celebrated Cheesie Mack series for middle grade readers and made hundreds of school visits around the country, bringing his irrepressible spirit to thousands of children. He also served for many years on the board of The Summer Science Program, and its expansion and success was one of his proudest achievements.
He also took particular delight in being “the most embarrassing dad ever” and may have clinched this award in the late 70s with an appearance on the Gong Show. (He was gonged.) His daughter Julia Quinn, however, tells the story of when she finally stopped being embarrassed by her father: “It was his 25th reunion. I was a sophomore, so I stayed in Cambridge to attend the festivities with him. The entire class of ’65 had gone to a club in Boston for dancing, and Janet Jackson came on the speakers. My father started dancing very badly (typical) but with great enthusiasm (also typical). I saw a few teenagers pointing and snickering, and I thought, ‘Yeah, you WISH your dad danced like that.’ After that, I felt nothing but pride in his geekiness. He was willing to try almost anything, and he never let the fear of embarrassment rule his actions. As a friend said after his sudden death, ‘We should all be a little more Steve.’