SOE News

John Otts, former acting dean, celebrates his 100th birthday

Photo of John Otts
John Otts


Photo of John Otts' family
John Otts surrounded by (left to right) niece Elizabeth Rogers, daughter Bev Monroe and niece Katie Monroe


Photo of photo display
100 years and going strong

John Otts, who was acting dean of the School of Education from 1965-66, became a centenarian Aug. 14, 2009. Sporting a baseball cap that read “Kiss me! I’m 100 years old,” Otts was celebrated by family and friends who gathered at the Highland Farms Retirement Community in Black Mountain, N.C., where he now resides.

A native of Spartanburg, S.C., Otts pursued a long and productive career in education. He began as a high school teacher ─ then a principal ─ in Spartanburg. He later became an assistant superintendent in the Charlotte (N.C.) City Schools, where he was heavily involved in working toward integration and working to establish the consolidated Charlotte/Mecklenburg school district.

Otts’ career shifted to higher education when he joined the faculty of Queens College in Charlotte. He came to the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education in 1963, first serving on the faculty and then as acting dean. Subsequently he was dean of education at the University of South Carolina-Columbia for a decade, and later was acting president of the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Va.

Otts and his wife Lou pursued many interests together over their 59-year marriage. Education was a strong theme in their family. Lou was an artist who taught art for many years.

Two of the four daughters earned degrees from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education and became educators: Rebecca Otts Fant (A.B.Ed. ’65), a retired elementary teacher, and Charlotte Otts (M.A.T. ’71), an associate professor at New Mexico State University-Grants. The other two daughters ─ Bev Otts Monroe and Sally Otts Rogers ─ are also teachers.

After Otts retired, he and his wife enjoyed traveling around the world, especially on freighter cruises. “Family has been most important to me,” he says. Lou Otts died in 1999.

John Otts has remained active and productive well into his 90s, serving in a number of roles in his community. He was editor of the Highland Farms newsletter until he lost his sight to macular degeneration a few years ago.

Otts attributes his longevity to good genes. His daughter Charlotte adds that he also has a positive attitude and strength of character. “He has worked hard and played hard,” Charlotte says. “He is very strong in his beliefs and has been quick to stand up for people when he felt they were being treated unfairly but had done no wrong. He also has had wonderful relationships with friends and family, including nearly 60 years of marriage to our mother, Lou Bomar Smith Otts.”