Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance

Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton

Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton are the quintessential donor couple, doing all the right things for all the right reasons in all the right ways. Their bond with the business college at the St. Petersburg campus is long and deep. Since Tiedemann's first gift of $10 million in 2014 to name the college, which was named the Kate Tiedemann College of Business before USF's 2020 consolidation, their giving has continued every year since. Following that gift, Cotton donated $1 million for scholarships to name the Ellen Cotton Atrium, plus another $100,000 to establish the Ellen Cotton Student Engagement Fund to support student organizations on the St. Petersburg campus. The duo also seeded that campus' Student Managed Investment Fund with $250,000. In 2019, they graciously gave another $3 million to endow the Tiedemann-Cotton Deanship at at what is now the Tiedemann School of Business and Finance. Most recently, they established the Tiedemann-Cotton Endowed Professorship in Finance for the new Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance to launch this newest chapter of their legacy.

Their stories are compelling. Tiedemann emigrated from Germany at age 18, not speaking a word of English. Over a decade later, operating from her garage, she founded Katena Products, whose precision ophthalmologic surgical instruments are now sold in 110 countries worldwide.

Philanthropy has become her second career, funding the Katena Birthing Center at Saint Claire’s Hospital in Denville, establishing the Tiedemann Technology Fund at Morton Plant Mease in Clearwater and the Kate Tiedemann College of Business at USF St. Petersburg. She and Cotton also support numerous Tampa Bay charities with transformational gifts.

In her own words, after spending 30 years making money, Tiedemann is devoting the next 30 years to giving it all away. She speaks openly about wondering what she could have done if she had had a college education and is determined to provide that opportunity for others. “An education has the power to change a person’s life.”

Cotton is a successful banker turned entrepreneur, having owned and managed a Hallmark franchise. While growing up in a large family on Staten Island, the community provided support in their greatest times of need. In turn, she is driven to support education and students in financial need.