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March 3, 2023 

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

The Michael J. Kotzan Creative Writing Scholarship Award, which debuted last year to help pave the way for future creative writers at Notre Dame Prep, opens in 2023 with a focus on playwriting.

NOTE: Entries for the new Michael J. Kotzan Creative Writing Scholarship Award are due June 12. For more information, current freshmen families should check out their community time page in MyNotreDame.

Michael J. Kotzan was a proud 2005 Notre Dame Prep graduate who touched many lives during his time at the school, including those of classmates and teachers. According to his mother, Donna, who retired from Notre Dame Prep after many years as a teacher and administrator, Michael epitomized the ideal Marist-educated young man.

In fact, a “behind-the-scenes” kind of guy is how best to describe him, his mom said. 

“One of my favorite quotes of Fr. Colin, the Marist founder, which is appropriately displayed in the school main hallway, says, ‘While doing great things for the Lord, be unknown and even hidden in the world,’” she said. “That would be a great tagline for Mike. He didn’t need credit or center stage and always was concerned about and considerate of others.” 

She said that Michael realized early on how blessed he was and how he looked to help those less fortunate, which is exactly the type of person the world needs today, she believes.

But the world continues to miss an amazing, kind and giving person it needs because, tragically, Michael Kotzan died suddenly in June of 2021. 

And while his family and the Notre Dame Prep community still mourns the loss of such a brilliant light, the scholarship that was created in his name continues to honor his memory and to encourage young NDP students to pursue creative expression like Michael did in a life well-grounded in Fr. Colin’s calling.

This year's Michael J. Kotzan Creative Writing Scholarship focuses on playwriting.

“We as a family worked with the administration of Notre Dame to initiate the Michael J. Kotzan Creative Writing Scholarship Award in an effort to help awaken the creative talents of NDP’s youngest students,” Donna Kotzan said last year when the scholarship was first introduced. 

“Michael always enjoyed writing, but it was not until he had earned his bachelor and law degrees that he realized his love of writing needed to be more fully explored. Although he cannot continue his writing dreams or mentor young writers anymore, hopefully this scholarship can inspire students to explore their own creative writing abilities and continue to strengthen those skills during their time in high school.”

Last year, NDP's Amelia Kayi earned the scholarship based on a creative writing piece she submitted that was judged as the top entry out of 18 submitted by her then fellow NDP ninth graders. 

This year, each creative entry will be a one-act play not to exceed 40 pages, the subject of which can focus on any genre: fantasy, science fiction, humor, romance, mystery, etc. According to Kim Anderson, Notre Dame Prep's principal, each script should be appropriate and in line with the NDP philosophy.

A career U-turn

After Michael graduated from NDP, he went on to earn an undergraduate degree from Michigan State University’s James Madison College in 2009. In 2012, he graduated from the University of Miami - Florida School of Law and passed the bar exam in Illinois. As a member of the bar, he had many interesting experiences practicing law, but he was looking for more. 

As a student at Notre Dame Prep, Michael Kotzan was involved in many extracurricular activities, including varsity hockey.

In his free time, Michael started to write short stories and formulate ideas and scripts for TV and movies. After burnishing those skills by taking a number of creative writing classes, he became convinced it was time for him to travel a completely different path in the working world.

“He got involved in writing groups and enjoyed the camaraderie and critiques, especially the positive feedback, of fellow writers,” his mother recalled. “He decided to take a break from Chicago, which is where he was practicing law, and moved to Hollywood. He wanted to give his dreams a chance. Even though COVID closed down most of Los Angeles, he still was able to work on a variety of screenwriting projects, which we’re very fortunate to have as part of his legacy.” 

Now, the Kotzan family hopes that legacy will thrive and blossom through the scholarship, which is specifically targeted to Notre Dame Prep freshmen. 

Anthony Butorac, chair of Notre Dame Prep’s English department thinks the scholarship’s focus on writing is a great thing for the students.

“I believe that creative writing is essential for our school and for the greater community,” he said. “We are a school where football players, for example, do theater and sing in the choir. I love the idea that our football players can now also be creative writers. This scholarship is a great opportunity for us to bring the element of creative writing to an even larger group of kids in our school family, just like we do with theater, music and art.”

Donna Kotzan says that’s exactly what she’s hoping for from the Notre Dame family — a family, she says, that was almost as important to Michael as his own family, which, his mom says, was indeed special to her son.

“Family was critical to Michael no matter how many physical miles separated us,” she said. “He loved his grandparents and helped them in many ways. His sisters [Kathy NDP’98, Karen NDP’01], nieces and nephews adored him. He loved playing Pretty Princess and dinosaurs with them and if family or friends needed help, he was quick to rearrange his schedule.”

Mission and adventure

Donna Kotzan also said her son always looked for new adventures, whether they were in Miami, Chicago, Hollywood or wherever. 

“He gave his family great vacation destinations because he was determined to follow his dreams wherever they would take him,” she said with a wink. 

Summing it all up, mom Donna says she and Mike’s dad (Joe ND’70) are exceptionally proud of their son “and we know that he would be honored to award this scholarship in his name to students who are willing to put forth their best efforts in creative writing.”

She adds that the school mission indeed was a proud part of the Kotzan family’s traditions and that Michael definitely was a product of that mission.

“He was a man of faith, community and academic balance,” she said. “Mike glided through high school with many great teachers, some of whom are still teaching today at NDP. His favorite teachers ‘got’ his dry sense of humor and measured academic approach. I also have to say that Mike reveled in the fact that he was the creative one in his own family — a family of engineers, by the way, and one math teacher.”

One of his former teachers, Jocelynn Yaroch, who teaches IB Biology and serves as vice principal of NDP, agrees.

“You can tell early on that there definitely was a creative streak running through Michael,” she said.

NDP principal Anderson remains excited about the scholarship.

“I am hopeful that this opportunity may inspire some of our freshmen who may be nervous, apprehensive or humble about their writing, to take a risk and share their creative writing pieces,” she said.  “I think that giving a young writer the inspiration to follow their passion would make Michael very happy.”

Entries for the new Michael J. Kotzan Creative Writing Scholarship Award are due June 12. For more information, current freshmen families should check out their community time page in MyNotreDame.

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Comments or questions?

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at