Cotner College [RG4065.AM]


RG4065.AM: Cotner College (Bethany, Nebraska)

Records, papers: 1889-1987
Bethany, Lancaster County, Nebraska
Size: 5.5 cu.ft.; 7 boxes + oversize


In July of 1887 the Nebraska Christian Missionary Board was asked to acquire land near Lincoln for a Christian Church college. Residents northeast of the city donated 321 acres of land to build an institution of higher learning specifically for training missionaries and ministers. The school was officially founded in 1888 by the Christian Church, or Disciples of Christ, of Nebraska.

Originally called Nebraska Christian University, the school was renamed Cotner College after Samuel V. Cotner of Omaha, who gave a large financial gift to get the institution started. The cornerstone of the school’s main building was dedicated in 1890.

All students received an introduction to Bible literature and direct study of the Bible, as well as education in the arts and sciences. A medical school and dental school (which became the present University of Nebraska College of Dentistry) were part of the institution in the early years, but were discontinued in 1919. The school flourished and by 1924 Cotner College could claim that it had trained six college presidents, thirty-eight university and college professors, fifty-three foreign missionaries, three hundred ministers, and one-half of the Christian Church ministers in Nebraska.

Cotner College became a victim of the depression and was forced to close its doors in 1933. It reopened in 1946 as Cotner, A Bible College, on Holdrege Street near the University of Nebraska East Campus. By the mid-1950s, the school had relocated to 1237 “R” Street and was called The Cotner School of Religion. The curriculum included only courses in religion. Cotner students took their basic arts and sciences courses at the University of Nebraska or other accredited school, while University of Nebraska students could receive elective course credit for religion classes offered at Cotner.

Eventually, the major emphasis of the School of Religion became the teaching of courses in religion for University of Nebraska students. In 1966, the school changed its name again, becoming The Nebraska School of Religion. With the implementation of religion classes at the University of Nebraska in the 1970s, the courses provided by the Nebraska School of Religion were no longer needed. By the late 1970s, the Nebraska School of Religion had ceased to exist, but a Cotner Chair of Religious Studies was established and endowed at the University of Nebraska in 1976.


This collection consists of materials relating to the history, curriculum, administration, faculty and student activities of Cotner College. It is arranged in six series: 1) Cotner College (“Old Cotner”); 2) Cotner/Nebraska School of Religion, 1946-1976; 3) Scrapbooks; 4) Minutes and Administrative Materials, 1933-1969; 5) Alumni Materials; and 6) Time Capsule.

Series 1 includes records and papers from “Old Cotner,” 1891-1934, and is divided into five subseries: 1) Student records, 1909-1933; 2) General, 1891-1934; 3) Printed materials; 4) Medical Department; and 5) Faculty. The student records of Subseries 1 (SS01) are restricted by law. The General subseries (SS02) relates to the curriculum and student activities. Included are a brief history of the college, brochures, commencement items, a student letter, programs, items relating to Cotner College presidents, etc. Subseries 3 (SS03), Printed Materials, consists of Cotner publications, a calendar, printed songbooks, fund raising materials, and miscellany. Subseries 4 (SS04), Medical Department, contains medical student records [restricted by law], announcements, and bulletins of the Medical Department and the Lincoln Dental College. Subseries 5 (SS05) houses a ledger-size volume of Faculty meeting minutes, 1889-1919.

Series 2 includes records and miscellaneous items relating to Cotner College following its re-opening in 1946. Materials in this series appear under three different institutional titles: Cotner, A Bible College; The Cotner School of Religion; and the Nebraska School of Religion. An almost complete set of Course schedules and curriculum information, 1946-1976 [lacks 1952-1957] is present, as well as some grade books, reports, and opposing legal briefs from Cotner College vs. Estate of Elmer E. Hester, Deceased. The Scrapbooks of Series 3 contain newspaper clippings, photographs, and programs relating to the College and various student activities, 1923-1957. Volume 3 includes a number of obituaries for the College’s founders, administrators and faculty.

Series 4 is composed of Minutes and administrative materials, 1933-1977. The minutes span the years 1933-1969. The administrative materials include documents, correspondence and notes relating to the merger of academic programs with the University of Nebraska in 1973, and a report to the Christian Church in Nebraska, 1977. Of particular interest in Series 5, Alumni Materials, are Alumni Newsletters, and a compilation of reminiscences, “Cotner College: Centennial of a Dream 1887-1987.” Series 6 consists of items placed in a time capsule by the Delta Chi Youth Fellowship in 1963-1964. The capsule was opened for the Cotner College 100 year anniversary in 1988 under the auspices of the Cotner College Commission, which still oversees alumni and historical information, legal issues, inquiries and other business relating to the school.

(Acc. 81-113; 88-7; 1994.0189; 1997.0024; 2003)

Note: Photographs are stored separately. Cotner College Yearbooks, Catalogs, and some college publications can be found in the Library Collection. Ask the Reference Staff for assistance.


Series 1 – Cotner College (“Old Cotner”)
Subseries 1: Student Records, 1909-1933
Box 1 – Student records, A-Sm (Restricted)
Box 2 – Student records, Sn-Z (Restricted)

Oversize V01 – Student records, 1909-1933 (Restricted)
Oversize V02 – Student records, 1909-1933 (Restricted)

Series 1 – Cotner College (“Old Cotner”)
Subseries 2: General, 1889-1934
Box 3

  1. Prospectus, 1889
  2. “History and Achievements of Cotner College”
  3. Course description brochures
  4. Grade book, L.P. Bush, 1898-1918
  5. Student letter, 1895
  6. William Prince Aylsworth
  7. Charles E. Cobbey
  8. William Oeschger [writings, etc.]
  9. Oxford Fellowship
  10. Commencements, 1891-1931
  11. Theater and music programs, c.1909-1930, and undated
  12. Miscellaneous programs
  13. Cotner Summer Program materials – Sylvan Dale
  14. Missionary materials
  15. Clippings
  16. a. Miscellany
    b. Annuity materials; “Creditors’ Agreement for Plan of Liquidating Indebtedness of Cotner College”
  17. Diploma and certificate, Tillie Saathoff, 1918 (See oversize)
    Poster, 1930 Summer Program (See oversize)

Series 1 – Cotner College (“Old Cotner”)
Subseries 3: Printed Materials
Box 4

  1. Cotner College Bulletin, 1924-1935
  2. Cotner Courier, 1926
  3. Printed materials – 1911 calendar
  4. Printed materials – Cotner songs
  5. Printed materials – Fund raising
  6. Printed materials – Miscellaneous

Series 1 – Cotner College (“Old Cotner”)
Subseries 4: Medical Department
Box 4

  1. Medical Department Announcements, 1893-1908
  2. Medical Department/College Bulletins, 1909-1915
  3. Medical Department programs, 1891; 1895
  4. Lincoln Dental College [Bulletin], 1900-1901
  5. Cotner Medical College Index to Permanent Records, 1897-1911 [lists only student name and page number]
  6. Medical student permanent records, 1897-1911, indexed [oversize volume, restricted by law]

Series 1 – Cotner College (“Old Cotner”)
Subseries 5: Faculty

  1. Faculty minutes, 1889-1919 (see oversize)

Series 2 – Cotner/Nebraska School of Religion, 1946-1976
Box 4

  1. General information, reports
  2. Course schedules and curriculum, 1946-1976
  3. Grade books, R. Peterson, 1946-1954

Box 5

  1. Cotner College vs. the Estate of Elmer E. Hester [c.1950]
  2. Clippings
  3. Miscellany

Series 3 – Scrapbooks
Box 5

  1. Cotner Endowment Crusade, 1925
  2. Cotner Players, 1931-1933
  3. Clippings, photographs, programs, 1923-1957
  4. Oversize
  5. Christian Student Fellowship, 1947-1952 [includes photographs] (see oversize)
  6. Marjorie Matson [Smith] scrapbook and photo album, c.1924-1927 (see oversize)

Series 4 – Minutes and Administrative Materials, 1933-1977
Box 5

  1. a. Minutes of the Conservation Committee, 1933-1935
    b. Minutes, various committees, boards, etc., 1933-1935
  2. Minutes, various committees, boards, etc., 1936-1945
  3. Minutes, various committees, boards, etc., 1946-1950

Box 6

  1. Minutes, various committees, boards, etc., 1951-June 1954
  2. Minutes, various committees, boards, etc., Sept. 1954-June 1956
  3. Minutes, various committees, boards, etc., Sept. 1957-July 1959
  4. Minutes, various committees, boards, etc., Sept. 1959-Jan. 1962
  5. Minutes, various committees, boards, etc., Jan. 1962-1969
  6. Merger of Academic Program files, c.1973 – Documents, notes, correspondence
  7. Commission on Brotherhood Finance Reports, 1964-1969
  8. Report to the Christian Church in Nebraska, c.1976-1977

Box 7

  1. Miscellaneous Board Meeting notes (Raleigh Peterson), 1963-1969
  2. Blueprints for Cotner School of Religion building, R Street (see oversize)

Series 5 – Alumni Materials
Box 7

  1. “Cotner College: Centennial of a Dream 1887-1987”
  2. Alumni Newsletters, 1926-1927; 1959-1977
  3. Miscellaneous alumni materials

Series 6 – Time Capsule, 1963-1964
Box 7

  1. Delta Chi Youth Fellowship [includes photograph]
  2. Bethany Christian Church; Bethany community
  3. M.T. Burt Lectures: Perry E. Gresham, 1964
  4. Cotner School of Religion publications
  5. Clippings
  6. Lincoln Star, Nov. 23, 1963

Subject headings:

Aylsworth, William Prince, 1844-1926
Cobbey, Charles E.
Colleges and universities — Nebraska
Cotner, A Bible College (Lincoln, Neb.)
Cotner School of Religion (Lincoln, Neb.)
Disciples of Christ — Nebraska
Education — Nebraska — History
Hester, Elmer E.
Lundeen, Earnest
Nebraska School of Religion (Lincoln, Neb.)
Oeschger, William
Religious education
Smith, Marjorie Matson

AIP/pmc 10-13-1987
KFK 03-21-1997; 11-12-1997; 12-04-2000
KFK/DAB 04-24-2003


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