An alumnus of The University of New Mexico has made a generous gift to the UNM Sustainability Studies program to establish an endowed fund in the name of his beloved late wife. The substantial gift will be used to support the Sustainability Studies Program’s efforts to address our society’s most pressing challenges.
A Donor and Honoree Profile included with the gift documents chronicles the couple’s story:
After a career in the Navy and attending divinity school in Massachusetts, Laurence Cotter lived in Catholic Trappist and Zen Buddhist monasteries. He was living as a hermit in New Mexico when a friend who worked at an Episcopal church in Albuquerque said a parishioner named Rosalind Womack wanted to find out about the spiritual practice of a hermit.
Laurence and Rosalind started exchanging letters, and then met, fell in love, and married.
Laurence received his graduate degree in counseling psychology from UNM in 1998. A UNM alumna, Rosalind had finished her bachelor’s degree from the College of Arts and Sciences before enrolling in nursing school. She worked for 40 years in Medicare and Medicaid utilization review and medical staff quality assurance in hospitals, ending her career as a cytotechnologist.
“She was smart, resourceful, and made things happen. She not only wanted to do good work, but she also wanted to be good. She wanted to be in love with all her heart and she did that.”
“Together the two made a good, joyful, loving life together until she passed away in 2013.”
With his gift, Cotter established the Rosalind O. Womack Fund in Sustainability Studies at UNM.
“Rosalind would welcome seeing this fund invested in the UNM Sustainability Studies Program and other initiatives on campus helping students to consciously confront, understand and act given the alarming facts and imperatives of climate change. She’d be proud to be a part of these efforts to help students prepare themselves logistically, professionally, psychologically, and morally to be of service to their communities and world in the hard times ahead."
“This university is vitally important now not only as a place to train students to be the leaders who will help sustain our living environments and society, but as a place of enlightenment where students can discover what it is in this human experience that is most beautiful, good, true, and most worth sustaining.”
“It is a privilege for Laurence to make this donation in honor of his dear Rosalind,” the Donor and Honoree Profile concludes.
“We are absolutely thrilled by this gift,” said Melinda Morgan, Sustainability Studies Program director, noting that the gift coincides with the United Nations global climate summit – known as COP26 – held this month in Glasgow.
“The funds will be used to support the Sustainability Studies Program’s efforts to address our society’s most pressing challenges, including climate change, alternative energy sources, and the need for more regenerative agricultural practices,” she said, adding that the funds will support program activities and projects that involve students and provide them with unique opportunities, including support for courses that involve students in hands-on learning, internship opportunities and research programs that give students real-world experience, and student recruitment and outreach to bring more students to the Program. The focus will be on impactful opportunities that focus on climate change, renewable energy and regenerative agriculture. An emphasis will also be placed on involving students in work with cross-campus and community partners engaged in these areas of focus.
The Sustainability Studies Program utilizes experiential learning, research, and service activities to implement practical solutions for a sustainable future on the UNM campus, in the state of New Mexico, and for the Earth as a whole. Sustainability Studies integrates knowledge and methodologies from the Sciences, Humanities, and Arts to provide a roadmap for students that can be applied to the design, selection, and implementation of sustainable policies, practices, technologies, and strategies. Sustainability Studies provides a dynamic feedback loop of information and practice.
Cotter explained why he made the bequest: “I am deeply concerned about climate change and about our nearly insane lack of collective action to address it. Something seems to be interfering with humanity’s basic survival instinct.”
“We appear to be caught in the grip of a paralyzing double bind,” he observed. “On the one hand, if we do not radically change the way we produce and consume energy, grow our food, govern ourselves, and live our lives, we will very possibly kill ourselves off as a species. Yet, on the other hand, if we stop burning fossil fuels and stop doing business as usual, we will not be able to earn our living, prosper, grow, live free, and die happy. We seem to be damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”
“But is it true we must continue to live the way we are living regardless of the fact that it is killing us?” he continued. “I hope this is a false dilemma. I know it is and I hope that the sustainability program in specific, and this university in general, will be able to help students think and act more clearly and sanely so we can get through this crisis together and into a future worth having.”
“This gift is transformative,” Morgan said. “Larry’s Cotter’s generosity will make it possible for generations of UNM students to take on societal challenges by providing them with unique opportunities that will enhance their future careers. We need to promote innovative thinking and the Rosalind O. Womack Fund in Sustainability Studies will do just that.”