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Cotner University

Bethany, Nebraska



The 1914 Croaker is one of the out-of-state college yearbooks in the collection at Mid-Continent Genealogy Center at Independence, MO.   E-Yearbooks has a digital version of the 1922 yearbook, called the Bulldog.  Leon Moomaw’s 1916 History of Cotner University is on Internet Archive.


Nebraska Christian College was founded by the Disciples of Christ outside Lincoln, NE on September 30, 1888.  It was later named for Samuel Cotner, who donated a tract of land and money for the college.  Opening with 30 students, the school remained small, but developed schools of medicine, business, dentistry, teacher education, and divinity.  As was the case with many small schools, it could not survive the Great Depression, closing at the end of the 1932-33 school year.  The University of Nebraska Medical College and the Nebraska Dental College both had origins at Cotner.


The  Croaker shows a student body of 181 students—106 in one of the regular programs, 39 in the academy, and 36 in special programs such as expression, painting or music.  The faculty numbered 27.   At its highth, Cotner had a listed enerollment of 325 in 1904. 


Cotner had chapters of three literary societies—Mathesian, Philomathian and Athenian.  The three chapters organized interclass debates and a triangular debating league of Cotner, Doane College, and Bellevue College.  Most Medical School students were members of the Eclectic Medical Society.  And since Cotner was a religious school, it had chapters of the Y.M.C.A., Y.W.C.A., the Ministerial Association, the Prohibition League and the Volunteer Band.  During 1913-14 music students performed the opera “The Bohemian Girl,” and expression students performed the drama “One Summer’s Day.”


The 1922 Bulldog shows that the Medical College had been moved, but a high school had been added.


By 1933 enrollment was down to 107, and so Cotner was forced to suspend operations in May.  Hopes of reopening in 1935 were ended by the drought of that summer. School property was sold in fall of 1935.

Bricks and Mortar

The central building on campus was Aylsworth Hall, the administration/classroom building.  Built of Milwaukee brick trimmed with red sandstone, the five-story buildings became a Lincoln landmark.  At the time of closure, the campus also included a girl’s dormitory, a boy’s dormitory, and a gymnasium. 


A 1947 aerial view of the campus described Aylesworth Hall as “ghostly.”  Today, the only surviving campus building is Essex Hall (1928), now used as a multi-family dwelling.




       Colors: Royal Purple.  Moomaw lists these

                    as Blue and  White

       Team name: Bulldogs


The College Football Data Warehouse credits Cotner with a few football games played between 1892 and 1905.  However, the Croaker noted that football was “inaugurated” at Cotner in 1911, when a team without a player “who had even so much as touched a moleskin” compiled a 0-6 record.   The 1913 team, featured in the yearbook, had a 1-4-1 record, building a “great foundation for the coming season.”  With only two returning players, the 1913 Bulldogs defeated the University of Omaha and played a scoreless tie with Peru Normal.  Losses were to Bellevue, to Nebraska Wesleyan, to Doane and to Hastings.


Cotner continued to play intercollegiate football until the school closed but enjoyed only three outstanding seasons.  The 1917 team was undefeated (6-0-2) and the 1929 and 1930 teams had only a loss and a tie each, winning the Nebraska College Conference both years..


Cotner also fielded teams in basketball, baseball and tennis.  Women’s sports were at intramural level

1913 football team, Image from Croaker, courtesy of Mid-Continent Genealogy Center.

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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