Thomas E. Cotner, 63, an offical of the U.S. Office of Education who specialized in international exchange programs, died at Arlington Hospital Dec. 1 after a heart attack. He was stricken at his home in Falls Church.

Dr. Cotner was born in Dallas. He earned a degree in history at Baylor University in 1937 and a master's degree in Latin American history and government from the University of Texas in 1939. While studying for his master's, he taught history and civics at a high school in Brownwood, Tex. He was an instructor in Latin American history at Tulane and the University of Texas in 1940 and 1941.

He moved to Washington in 1942 to begin his career with the U.S. Office of Education. He joined the agency's Inter-American Division, which was responsible for the exchange of students and teachers between the United States and Latin America. He earned a doctorate in Latin American history and government from the University of Texas in 1947.

After World War II service as a Navy Lieutenant in the Atlantic, Dr. Cotner returned to the Office of Education and its bureau of international education, which was formed at that time. He became an authority on programs for the international exchange of teachers and school administrators.

From 1975 until his death, Dr. Cotner was chief of the international services and research branch of the Office of Education. His work concerned the study of foreign educational systems and contact with international forums, including UNESCO and the Organization of American States.

Dr. Cotner received the Superior Service Award from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1962.

In the late 1960s, Dr. Cotner served a term on the Fall Church school board.

He was a member of the Westover Baptist Church in Arlington.

Survivors include his wife, Jeanne B. of Falls Church; three sons, Thomas E. III, of Austin, Zachary B., of Falls Church, George R., of Arlington: and a brother, Robert C., of Austin.