Mining for Details

chris cocores

Chris Cocores '05 uses critical-thinking skills gained at Dickinson to chart a rewarding career in finance

Chris Cocores ’05 is a managing partner with uFinancial, a Central Pennsylvania general agency of financial services giant Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. The former history major says that not only did Dickinson lead him to his career in the financial realm, but it was an art & art history class that really opened his eyes to what he was capable of accomplishing. Read on to see how—and to see the footprint his family has left on the Dickinson campus over the years.

Can you speak to how Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education applies to your career?

My Dickinson education showed me how to mine for the important details in any given situation and how to use those details to solve problems. In my present position, I use this approach regularly to solve various issues and challenges facing our company. I can even point to the class and the professor that forced my brain to think like this: a 200-level art & art history class with [Professor of Art History] Melinda Schlitt during my sophomore year. Somehow she knew how to get a lot out of me academically, even more than I thought I was capable of. I owe her a debt of gratitude.

What jumps out as a great memory from your time at Dickinson?

Meeting the future Mrs. Cocores: Emily (West) Cocores ’06. Captivated me then and captivates me still.

How do you stay involved with Dickinson, and why do you think it’s important?

Emily and I felt like the experience we received at Dickinson was truly unique. This experience seems to stand out even more when we talk about our college life with high-school friends of ours who went to similar liberal-arts colleges and we hear what college was like for them. We have seen the Dickinson education successfully shape and prepare the lives of our family as well: Emily’s sister, Dr. Julia West McGinley ’08; our brother-in-law, Paul McGinley ’05; and Emily’s brother, Benjamin West ’14.

We certainly count ourselves fortunate for having the Dickinson experience. We do what we can to nurture it, ensuring its presence for future generations. For example, Emily gives time to her sorority in an alumni consultant role, and I give time to the Career Center as often as I can (Networking Day, panels, mock interviews, etc.). Emily and I also participate in the John Dickinson Society, and my firm has hired a handful of Dickinson interns. I also serve on the 10-year reunion committee.

How did you get interested in your current work?

Another Dickinson alum, Heather Champion ’97, who was working at the Career Center while I was a senior, strongly encouraged me to look into it. She thought this field would provide a suitable vehicle for what she perceived to be my natural gifts. Heather couldn’t have been more accurate. I literally still pinch myself, thinking about how lucky I’ve been professionally. I’m 32 now, and at 29, I was named as one of the youngest managing partners in a financial services firm in existence since 1890! To me, the credit for any of my successes is clearly linked to the college—my Dickinson education helped me develop critical-thinking skills and pointed me in the right direction.

What does your current work entail, and what about it interests you most?

My work primarily consists of a few major things: Recruiting experienced financial advisors from other firms, creating and influencing direction at the agency level, helping the advisors at our firm develop world-class practices so they can help people manage their financial affairs effectively and helping people improve their current financial lives for the future.

You just built a time machine: Where and when do you go?

As a history major, I can see too many choices. I’m forced to say Clinton, Conn. (where I grew up), in 1996 or 1997, and I’d tell myself or do the following: Listen to what my parents say—they are not out to get you—and listen more, talk less.

You’re going to live on an island by yourself for a year: What books, albums and movies do you take with you?

I would take my “to read” list, which now includes Stolen Art, Gates of Fire, The Omnivore's Dilemma, The Great Pearl Heist, Ninja Innovation and Red Notice. Timeless albums I couldn’t get sick of, nothing new or trendy: Van Morrison (all older albums), Graceland, James Taylor (all). If I had to go without my family, I’d take The Incredibles to remind me of them. It’s one of my daughter’s favorites. I’ve found it impossible to resist swelling with pride when she calls me Mr. Incredible!

If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?

The weather in Pennsylvania from December to February. I see myself as very lucky person.

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Published March 17, 2015