Fassett Allen Cotton was born in Indiana in 1862. His father, a teacher, died six year later. Despite the fact that he had to work to help support his family, he finished high school at age eighteen. Cotton's educational background included Spiceland Academy, Indiana State Normal, Butler University (A.B. in 1902), and the University of Chicago (bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1903). In 1905 he received an honorary LL.D. from Franklin College. A career educator, Cotton taught school in Henry County and then moved into administrative roles as a principal and county superintendent, then deputy superintendent and State Superintendent of Public Instruction for Indiana. In 1909, he accepted a position as founding president of the Normal school at LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
In 1924, Cotton, at age 62, decided to head west and assume leadership of the Northern Arizona Normal School [NANS]. During his tenure as president, Cotton established a two-year junior college course for non-education majors. He also organized a new physical education department and a school band. NANS placed a new emphasis on industrial arts and domestic science, in order to appeal to a broader cross-section of students. In honor of NANS's twenty-fifth anniversary, Cotton scheduled the first homecoming festivities. In 1925, the school celebrated its new status as Northern Arizona State Teachers College-- a four-year institution with the power to grant the bachelor of education degree.
In 1926, Cotton resigned amid some confusion on the part of the school's board. He spent a few years traveling as a popular lecturer, then planned a string of private schools, and in 1936 became the field representative for the Central Normal College at Danville, Indiana. Dr. Cotton died in 1941.
Condensed from Platt Cline, Mountain Campus: The Story of Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff: Northland Press, 1983), chapter IV.