Cotter Schools is named after the first Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Winona, Minnesota, Bishop Joseph Bernard Cotter.
Joseph Cotter was born in Liverpool, England on November 19, 1844; his family moved to the U. S. when he was 4 years old and settled in Ohio where Joseph received his elementary education. In 1855, Joseph and his father moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota where Joseph was later ordained a priest in 1871. After ordination, Father Cotter was named pastor for St. Thomas parish in Winona (the third largest city in Minnesota at that time).
On December 27, 1889, Fr. Cotter was consecrated Bishop of the new diocese of Winona in the Cathedral at St. Paul. Ten days later he was installed in the Pro-cathedral of St. Thomas on January 5, 1890. Bishop Cotter died in 1909, and, in 1911, his successor, Bishop Patrick Heffron, dedicated Cotter School for Boys and named it for Bishop Cotter. The school was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day in 1911.
Bishop Cotter was bishop at a time of great immigration, when many ethnic churches were established in the diocese—Irish, Polish, Czech, German, etc. During his administration, nearly three dozen schools were established in the parishes of the diocese.
For over one hundred years, Cotter High School has provided young women and men from Winona and the surrounding areas with a challenging liberal arts education, grounded in Catholic faith and values. Cotter's history has had five distinct periods during its first 100 years that have shaped its direction and mission.
Cotter High School for Boys began in a small school building on the east end of Winona, Minnesota, on September 5, 1911. Founded by Bishop Patrick Heffron, the Brothers of the Christian Schools (DeLaSalle Brothers) were invited to assume leadership of the new school and did so until 1952.
Next, in 1952, Cotter became co-educational, combining with Cathedral Girls' High School, and the Christian Brothers turned operation of the school back over to the Diocese of Winona. In 1953, a new Cotter building on Lafayette St. was erected, with an addition added in 1962 to handle growth.
Third, in 1992, Cotter High School separated ownership and governance from the Diocese of Winona when the Hiawatha Educational Foundation assumed financial responsibility and leadership of the school. The school moved to its current location on the former campus of the College of Saint Teresa, property acquired by the Hiawatha Educational Foundation.
The fourth stage of development involved the establishment of Cotter Junior High. In 1998, Cotter Junior High (formerly 7th and 8th grades from Winona Area Catholic Schools) was begun and moved into the old Cotter High School building on Lafayette St. In 2006, Cotter Junior High was brought to the current campus with the High School, where it remains today.
The fifth historical development involves the integration of international residential students into the student body. In 1992, with the move to the former Saint Teresa campus, the first residential students became an important part of the life and structure of the school. For over 20 years, students from over 14 countries around the world have chosen Cotter for their educational experience. Over 1000 international students have been welcomed and have enriched the Cotter community.
From its small beginnings with 11 graduates to its highest enrollment in the mid 1960's to today, Cotter High School and Junior High have maintained the highest academic standards while imparting Catholic faith and values to generations of local and international students.
The triangular shield represents the moral strength and integrity that characterizes Cotter students. Chi-Ro is Greek for Christ. The lamp is a traditional symbol for the light of knowledge radiating the flame of truth.
The Latin motto, "Veritatem Vereantur" can be translated to mean "Let them respect the truth." The inspiration for this motto comes from Pope Pius XII's letter on the "Apostolate of the Laity," in which he stated that the primary objective of all Catholic education should be "giving young minds a respect for truth and guiding them along independent lines of thought, indispensable to their intellectual maturity."