The Winona-based Slaggie Family Foundation, whose board includes Cotter alumni, has pledged to contribute between $15 million and $20 million — the largest gift in the prep school's 108-year history — for construction of an academic building. Scheduled to open as early as fall 2020, the facility will feature modern classrooms, science labs for STEM education, updated infrastructure, and a cafeteria. The school currently has more than $15 million in deferred maintenance needs and lacks the twenty-first-century facilities needed to enhance critical STEM education offerings.
In addition, the Rochester-based Hiawatha Education Foundation has pledged to increase its funding for a tuition assistance program aimed at keeping Cotter Schools affordable for local students. The Winona Post reports that in recent years, the school has seen a 40 percent drop in international enrollment — as student visas have become more difficult to obtain and concerns about gun violence in the United States have risen among potential enrollees' families — and has struggled to fill the resulting revenue shortfall. The new building also is expected to help attract students from abroad.
"From the Slaggie Family Foundation standpoint, Cotter Schools is obviously near and dear to our heart. That is a direct result of the experience my dad had when he attended, and when my siblings and I attended," foundation vice president Mike Slaggie told the Post. "We all felt supremely strongly about what we received from the good sisters, and what our children received from the excellent teachers at Cotter. Never would I have dreamed to be able to exercise philanthropy like we're doing."
"We appreciated the educational opportunity that Cotter provided us and wanted to maintain it as a quality educational program, at an affordable price for local students," said Hiawatha Education Foundation founder Bob Kierlin. "With this new development and dreams of what else might be possible on the campus, Winona continues to see how good people can do great things."
"The spirit of generosity among our alumni is a testament to the high-quality education they and their families have experienced in Cotter Schools," Cotter Schools president Sr. Judith Schaefer said in a statement. "The Cotter Schools experience is about achieving academic excellence. With these substantial gifts, our students will be better challenged and fully prepared to excel in college and beyond. More local students will experience a Catholic education that is rooted in faith, hope, and love. We are overwhelmed with gratitude."