FaceBook  Twitter

The Two Moments David Cotterill ’60 Will Never Forget

Growing up in Rochester, New York, David Cotterill ’60 came from a family of modest means. He got his first job when he was 12—delivering the morning newspaper seven days a week—and after high school he worked for a year to save up some money for college.

It’s no wonder, then, that when he arrived at Penn State he was more mature than the average freshman. He also did not know a single person. Joining a fraternity was the perfect way to solve that, but he knew he didn’t want to join just any one.

“When rush started, I was interested in finding somewhere I felt comfortable,” says David. “I liked Sigma Nu because they seemed more mature. I just felt comfortable with the kind of man that was part of this fraternity.”

He credits Brother Joe Hyson ’58 with being a huge part of his decision to join. Joe became a mentor and great friend to him, and David could only hope that the others at Sigma Nu were similar. He quickly realized that they were.

At the time, in 1956, David was living in Nittany Dorms—a Quonset hut-like building that had been constructed for returning WWII veterans. Later on, he moved into the chapter house, which housed 20 bunk beds.

“We slept with the windows open, every day and night of the year—even in the winter,” says David. “Your beds were selected by your number. So of course the recent pledges had to sleep right by the windows. Many mornings when we had to wake them up, they were under snow!”

But David regards those days with nothing but fondness.

“I really enjoyed the fraternity life, and the camaraderie of the men who lived there,” he says.

There were two defining moments at Sigma Nu that would set the course for the rest of his life. The first came when he least expected it—at one of the spaghetti dinners that Sigma Nu would host during the week, which the Delta Gamma sorority and others attended.

“It was warm weather, and a bunch of us were outside,” David recalls. “I turned to go inside and as I reached for the door, this cute young blonde was coming out. So we chatted, and I walked her back to the dorm.”

That woman’s name was Joan Royer. She and David have now been married for 56 years, and have two children and five grandchildren. One grandson is now a Sigma Nu himself, at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. Through the years, David and Joan have shared a passion for helping others and giving back in their communities, including Delta Delta and Penn State’s College of Education.

David’s second defining moment at Sigma Nu was being elected president of the chapter, which helped him develop personal and leadership skills that paid off big time in his career.

David majored in Industrial Psychology at Penn State. At his first job out of college, at Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh, he was introduced to computers. He was then recruited by Wachovia Bank in North Carolina—the largest bank in the south at the time—to work in their operational side. As he advanced in the company, his friends joked that he must be crazy for choosing to work in the technical sector. But David loved it, and it was worth it when he became head of data processing for Wachovia, running an empire of 7,000 people in various states.

“Today you would say I was the head of I.T., but back then it was data processing,” he says.

In 1992, David was named by Sigma Nu national as the National Businessman of the Year. In 1998, he was named an Alumni Fellow by Penn State. He has no doubt that his success in life can be traced back to Sigma Nu.

“It just trained me for what I became,” he says. “Relating to people, handling technical issues, operating under pressure, and so forth.”

David still keeps in touch with his brothers, especially Gary Pauline ’60, Dick White ’61, and Ken Jones ’61 via email. He and Joan are planning a trip back to State College this fall for a football game. Even though he’s been surrounded by southern teams for most of his life now, he says he’ll always have a special place in his heart for the Nittany Lions. And while everyone else at his morning fitness class is sporting Wake Forest shirts or Tar Heel hats, David proudly wears Penn State gear.