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Baylor University

For Laura Beth Cotton (BA ’75), of Midland, Texas, establishing a scholarship at Baylor University offered a chance to honor her family’s legacy, while also celebrating the ties of friendship that bind her to her alma mater.

“I love the fact that I have history with Baylor, and that the school has a long history and tradition, but it is also preparing and moving well into the future,” Cotton said about why she chose to establish her scholarship. “Baylor is embracing the challenges of the future that will give Baylor students opportunities, whether with the new research category that we have achieved, or the athletic notoriety that we have enjoyed, but also academically through the entrepreneurship programs and the community service programs. Baylor is moving well into the future.”

In 2022, Cotton established the Laura Beth Cotton Alpha Beta Potato Endowed Scholarship to support the School of Education’s students. The scholarship’s name, “Alpha Beta Potato,” a nickname she and her friends gave their close-knit group after meeting in Collins Hall freshman year, pointed to her personal ties to Baylor. The beneficiaries, future generations of education students, honor her family’s legacy.

Cotton’s father, Russell Cotton, grew up in the small East Texas town of Palestine. Coming of age during the Great Depression, Russell knew a college education would be difficult to achieve, until a man came into town, looking for talented football players. He was starting a football team at the College of Mines and Metallurgy of the University of Texas, now known as the University of Texas at El Paso. Russell earned his college degree while playing football, working at a gas station in town to make ends meet. He never forgot the scholarship that opened a door to his future, including his wife, Betty, whom he met at school.

Russell made it clear to his and Betty’s three children, Laura, her brother Dr. James Cotton (BA ’65) and her sister Linda (Cotton) Collom (BSEd. ’70), that college was part of their futures. While only Linda followed Betty’s footsteps as a full-time educator, all five Cottons continued a legacy of teaching through Bible studies at church, establishing a charter school in Tyler, Texas, and even teaching college computer courses as an adjunct faculty member.

When asked what she hopes students gain from the Cotton Scholarship, Laura Cotton referred to a quote by her former pastor Patrick Payton, previously the pastor at Stonegate Fellowship in Midland.

“He taught us that we are each uniquely designed and called and gifted by God,” Cotton said. “A great teacher helps a student, no matter what age, embrace new possibilities, new gifts, new skills. A great teacher opens students’ minds up to different ways of thinking. My hope that, whether it is a student who is going through the education program at Baylor in 10 years or 20 years or 60 years, they are realizing the impact that a teacher can have on future generations in realizing that they are each designed called and gifted.”

Laura Cotton established her named scholarship through a planned gift. As an endowed scholarship fund, the Cotton Scholarship will share with future generations of Baylor students her stories of a family dedicated to education and friendships that have endured more than 50 years of laughter, love and loss. What a legacy, indeed.

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