Beth Cotner named President of Sill

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By Diana Colson

The Landings own Beth Cotner has recently been named president of Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning (SILL). This outstanding organization brings internationally renowned experts to the Sarasota area to discuss a vast range of domestic and global issues.

Beth Cotner and her husband Jack Alogna

The 2020 season, named the “Global Issues” series, runs January 7 to March 27, and features 72 programs in Sarasota, Venice and Lakewood Ranch. Speakers explore dozens of topics, including the U.S. role in the world, income inequality, climate change, migration, artificial intelligence, and topical issues in Latin America, Asia, Europe, Russia and Iran.

Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning also offers its very popular Monday Music series, chaired by Edward Alley.   

Before becoming president of SILL, Beth Cotner served on the board for 10 years, where she was Director of Programming, managing the committee that recruits 24 speakers per year for the area’s 3-month seminar, which focuses on global issues.

Says Cotner: “From a small startup operation years ago, SILL now offers five venues and, last year, attracted more than 45,000 attendees… Our Global Issues Program Committee, chaired by Bob Deutsch, has booked some impressive speakers for 2020.”

The speakers are indeed an impressive group!

A few of this year’s headliners include: Ambassador Kathleen Stevens, former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea, will explore how U.S. alliances in Asia are working in light of growing Chinese power; James Baker, a director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, will address national security in the light of artificial intelligence; Peter Georgescu, retired chairman of Young and Rubican, will examine how to end income inequality; Dr. Ray Takeyh, who holds the Hasib J. Sabbagh Chair in Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and previously served as a senior advisor on Iran at the State Department, will tackle the U.S.-Iran conflict; Dr. Susan A. MacManus, a University of South Florida Distinguished University Professor Emerita, will discuss changing voter demographics and the proliferation of news sources and concerns about “fake news”; and Dr. Celeste Wallander, president and CEO of the U.S. Russia Foundation, will provide an insider look at the Obama Administration’s foreign policy strategy.

Beth Cotner with Saudi Prince at SILL

Besides those headliners, other speakers are scheduled, some new, some returning with perspectives that have not been heard here before.  For the first time SILL will host a husband and wife speaking jointly. Jessica and Sean McFate’s topic ‘Battle of the Future; How Technology Replaces Traditional Weapons of War’ promises to be thought provoking.

SILL’s Global Issues lectures are 40 to 50 minutes in length, followed by 30 minutes of audience questions. Sarasota Lectures are held on Tuesdays Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10:30 a.m. at First Church, 104 S. Pineapple.  Venice Lectures are held on Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m., and Fridays at 10 a.m. at Venice Community Center, 326 S. Nokomis Ave.  Lakewood Ranch Lectures are held on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. at Cornerstone Church, 14306 Covenant Way. Doors open 40 minutes prior to the start of each lecture. 

Newly added last year is a venue on Long Boat Key where Global Issues lectures are telecast with a one-week lag.  Also, For the hearing impaired, Sarasota offers real-time captions during the Wednesday morning lectures at First Church in downtown Sarasota.

To learn about the program in more detail, visit For more information, call 941.365.6404.

SILL is a non-profit organization. It is guided by an all-volunteer board committed to modest prices and enhanced outreach.

As board member and now president for 2 years, Beth Cotner is one of many volunteers who has held to this vision.  2020 season subscriptions are a mere $85 for 12 lectures. Single lecture tickets are $10.

With a lifetime career in money management, Cotner knows how to handle finances.  Her stellar career has included being Chief Investment Officer of Putnam Large Cap Growth, handling $75 billion in assets, managing large mutual funds and pension funds. 

Beth Cotner grew up in Northern California in Crescent City, a small town that was wiped out by a tsunami in 1964. She earned her B.A. in International Studies from Ohio State University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in three years. She then went on to earn a MBA in international Business from George Washington University. She has had frequent appearances on CNBC, appeared on Wall Street Week, and has been featured in Fortune, The New York Times, and Barron’s.

She met her second husband on a blind date, an event arranged by Rita Spitz of the Landings. Handsome Jack Alogna was so impressed with this amazing lady, that on their second date, he invited her to go to Kenya!  (Did she go? You betcha! Travel is one of her things. She’s been to 93 countries and all 50 states.) They both like to travel, and soon will be going to see the Oberammergau Passion Play in Germany, a play that is only performed once every ten years.  

Beth Cotner plays tennis at the Landings on both the 3.5 and 4.0 teams. She is duplicate bridge Life Master and belongs to a book group. Besides SILL she volunteers at Personal Estate Liquidators (PEL) where all sales go to benefit youth.

Beth Cotner has 3 wonderful stepdaughters, courtesy of Jack Alogna. The couple shares a Golden-Doodle named Juno, and a cat called Jesse. Both pets travel with them by car when they spend summers in Cape Cod or go hiking in Blowing Rock. 

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