A Tribute to Bob Cottrell: Strengthening the Legacy


On January 31, Miami University alum Robert “Bob” Cottrell passed away. Bob was the son of Fred “Doc” Cottrell, the first director of the newly rebranded Scripps Gerontology Center (1972-1974) and a pioneer in gerontology. Bob worked for the Kroger Company for 31 years. He always had a heart for Miami and he prioritized serving his communities. Those commitments have benefited the Scripps Gerontology Center and Miami’s gerontology students and alums for several decades. 

In 2006, Bob and his brother William “Bill” Cottrell launched the W. Fred Cottrell Distinguished Alum Award at Scripps Gerontology Center. The award was established to honor the legacy of Doc Cottrell’s leadership in gerontology and public policy; an annual event brought successful gerontology alums to campus to give a lecture and connect to current students, other gerontology grads, Scripps staff, and faculty. After several years of successful lectures and campus visits by the Cottrell Distinguished Alum awardees, Bob recognized the opportunity to expand the impact of the award by focusing on year-long events related to leadership rather than a one-time annual lecture. “That shift was a great example of Bob’s enduring focus on thinking big and trying something new; it also reflected his investment in the success of Scripps and Miami’s gerontology community”, said Suzanne Kunkel, current Executive Director of Scripps. 

“In 2021 alone—despite COVID-19—this fund impacted 66 graduate students and 40 faculty and staff members,” said Dr. Leah Janssen, a presenter in the Cottrell program who works with students on a workshop designed to develop leadership skills. “The broadened focus of the Cottrell Leadership program—on leadership skill development as well as networking among alums and current students—exposes students to a richer set of opportunities.” 

The W. Fred Cottrell Leadership Development Fund has named 21 distinguished alumni honorees, has supported leadership development training for current students, and has fostered a new level of connection among the Miami University gerontology community, which stretches across the country and around the world. Mr. Cottrell’s enthusiasm for new ideas, and for networking, was transformative to Scripps and continues to propel us forward.

“Bob was a true friend to Scripps and a mentor and friend to me personally. He challenged and supported me in many ways. Early in my tenure as director of Scripps, he shared some of his principles of management with me; they have stayed with me for the past 20 years”, Kunkel added. 

Our hearts go out to the Cottrell family and to all who had the honor to know him. Bob will be greatly missed and always remembered. The Cottrell legacy will always be part of the foundation on which Scripps is built.

Bob Cottrell’s obituary can be found online.