For 35 years, Karen Cotten inspired and encouraged the students and athletes at Falconer Central School.
A graduate of Liverpool High School and SUNY Brockport, Cotten taught health and physical education until her retirement in 2005. Two years later, the high school named its tennis courts in her honor.
According to Cotten’s daughter, Shelley, Cotten was a fixture at many high school sporting events. One of her favorite memories occurred during a high school track meet when one of runners was struggling during the race and began to walk. Without a second thought, Cotten ran up to the side of the track and began clapping and encouraging the young girl that she could do it.
“The girl started running again and my mom continued to run alongside her,” Shelley reminisced.
Although the runner was disqualified for “pacing”, she didn’t care.
“After the race, she had such a huge smile on her face,” Shelley said. “She was just so proud of herself that she had pushed through and finished. This story, is my mother to a T.”
In April, Cotten passed away following a long and courageous battle with cancer. Soon after, her family began looking for a way to ensure her memory remains a part of Falconer Central School, forever.
“It was important to us to honor her legacy, not just as a teacher, athletic director or coach, but the impact she had as a mentor and a friend as well,” Shelley said.
And what would be more fitting than a scholarship in her memory to inspire future educators.
According to Shelley, the family received numerous donations in Cotten’s memory that were placed in an account at the local credit union. Last month, Shelley contacted the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation to transfer the funds and make it official.
The Karen Cotten Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to graduating Falconer Central School seniors pursuing a career in education. It will make its first award next spring.
“It is so fitting that the money raised for this scholarship came from so many parts of her life,” Shelley said. “We are so grateful to everyone who contributed and I know Mom is smiling down on us and overwhelmed by the love.”