Jeff Cotten

A Dedicated Educator

Alumnus Jeff Cotten has made several gifts to honor his mother’s life and teaching career.
Mike and Jeanette Margle smiling in front of evergreen trees.

Jeff Cotten (B.A. ’99) was an only child, but he shared his mother with thousands of other kids. Jeanne Furrh Cotten (1954-2018) had a 29-year career in the Texas public school system as an elementary school teacher. Her support and encouragement made a tremendous impact not only on Jeff, but also on generations of students in her classrooms. To honor her memory and her contribution to the education of so many, Jeff has established a gift to be divided evenly among UT’s College of Natural Sciences, College of Education and Dell Medical School.

Jeff’s connection to The University of Texas at Austin began long before he came to campus. His mother and her sisters — born and raised in Wills Point, Texas — were responsible for his early introduction to all things Longhorn. “None of them had ever gone to UT, but my mother and her three sisters all were rabid Longhorn fans,” Jeff recalls. “They indoctrinated me at an extremely early age and there was literally only one school I was going to go to, and so I applied only to UT.”

Jeff played trumpet in the Longhorn Band and excelled in his computer science program. He is currently the CEO of Alvaria, a customer engagement software platform, and credits the University with helping him develop skills he needed for success. “I was always pretty driven, but UT turned my drive into an unsatisfiable ambition,” he explains. “Being here taught me about structure, curiosity and responsibility and helped me flourish. It transformed my life.”

The Jeff Cotten Endowed Excellence Fund for Student Success Initiatives will support students in the College of Natural Sciences as they shape their futures. “My goal with this gift is to ensure there are tracks to prepare computer science students for the working world,” says Jeff.

Because of his mother’s long commitment to the field of education, Jeff knew the College of Education was a natural fit for a gift. The Furrh Family Endowed Excellence Fund for the College of Education will provide support for student success initiatives and teacher support programs. “Dean Charles Martinez of the College of Education is very passionate about helping Texas and the University get more graduates to go into teaching,” says Jeff. “What he’s doing really speaks to me. My gift will give access to people who will be great teachers but who may not have the money to get an education at UT.”

When Jeff’s mother passed away in Dallas due to an autoimmune disease in 2018, Jeff experienced the tragedy of one of the greatest pitfalls in traditional health care. “I was extremely frustrated that people supporting their loved one through an illness have to figure out everything on their own,” he says. “There’s no one to help connect you to other specialists, no one to help you navigate all the complications. Having to research all this and figure it out through support groups was a big challenge.”

“Being here taught me about structure, curiosity and responsibility and helped me flourish. It transformed my life.”

Jeff sees Dell Medical School’s approach to health care as one that provides an essential service to families dealing with ongoing medical issues. “One of the things I love about Dell Med is its mission to provide interconnectivity,” he says. “They help different disciplines work together for a patient’s whole health.” His gift to Dell Medical School — the Jeff Cotten Endowed Excellence Fund — will provide support in the areas of integrated care.

Jeff’s contributions to UT go beyond the financial. After returning from a three-year stay in Europe, Jeff felt “a real calling to get involved with the University beyond sports.” He now assists the College of Natural Sciences as a member of its advisory council, an organization tasked with helping the dean reach the college’s academic and societal missions. No matter how Jeff connects with his alma mater, the root of it always goes back to the influence of one person. “I hope my support of the University will honor what my mother did and the impact she had on so many others,” he says.