June 8, 2018
Lifetime Achievement Awards 2018

Cochrane's career devoted to empowering others

HBJ Photo | Steve Laschever
HBJ Photo | Steve Laschever

Adrienne W. Cochrane

Chief Executive Officer, YWCA Hartford Region

Size of organization: $6.8 million in revenue; 125 employees

Highest Education: St. Louis University School of Law, law degree

Previous job: Urban League of Greater Hartford, President and Chief Executive Officer

Senior citizen Edna Vinters, a lifelong Hartford resident, was tired — more tired from renting apartments than just about anything else.

However, with the help of the Urban League of Greater Hartford and her pastor, Vinters improved her credit score and navigated the mortgage process.

"It's a wonder … these are happy tears," she said of the Urban League's program for first-time homebuyers. "I encourage everybody that wants to have their own home, join that program."

An Urban League video shows a proud Vinters standing on her porch and surveying the neighborhood.

Excited, she exclaims, "I even learned how to sign my name online!"

Vinters is among the many thousands whose lives have been touched by Urban League programs and services, which also include health and workforce development.

"We help [individuals] move closer to self-sufficiency by utilizing our programs and services," said Adrienne Cochrane, the Urban League's former longtime CEO. "Empowering the community and changing lives is not just a tagline. It's something we do every day."

Cochrane, who served the Urban League of Greater Hartford for eight years, was appointed CEO of the YWCA 's Hartford Region this spring.

She has spent her career advocating for social justice while implementing health, educational and financial programs. The YWCA mission of eliminating racism and empowering women seems to make for a seamless transition.

Hartford's Urban League came into existence during an explosive period for change. It was formed two months after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"I'm excited," Cochrane said, "to help girls realize they can have careers in science and technology."

She also intends to ride the wave of the #MeToo and Women's March movements as she shepherds programs and services at the YWCA.

"There's no better time to capitalize on that and seize the moment and uplift and empower our girls and women so they know they can be successful," Cochrane said. "For many women, especially women of color, the old ways have been a way of life. During slavery, the master had his way. The idea of being taken advantage of in this way is not a new concept. The message that this is not OK is … a universal message."

Accolades and service

Cochrane has a long list of accomplishments.

She's been recognized by the Connecticut State Conference NAACP Branches as one of the "100 Most Influential Blacks" in Connecticut. She also received the "Trailblazer in Community Service Award" from the Greater Hartford branch of the NAACP.

In 2016, she received the "I am Empowered Award" from the National Urban League as a health and quality-of-life champion.

She's also heavily involved in the community. She currently serves as a: corporator for Hartford Hospital; corporator and board member of St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center; advisory board member for the Curtis D. Robinson Center for Health Equity at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center; board member for MetroHartford Alliance; board member for American Red Cross, Connecticut; and board member for Teach for America, Connecticut chapter.

Before taking the reins of the Urban League of Greater Hartford, Cochrane was the chief programs officer for the Urban League of Broward County in Florida, where she oversaw 22 youth development, wealth-building, juvenile-justice, education and workforce programs. She was formerly the vice president and chief operations officer for Quad County Urban League in the western Chicago, Ill., suburb of Aurora. Cochrane earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Tuskegee University in political science and counseling, respectively. She received a law degree from the St. Louis University School of Law.

Among her major initiatives at the Urban League was leasing the first floor of the nonprofit's Woodland Street building to St. Francis Hospital for the Curtis D. Robinson Men's Health Institute. The institute opened in Jan. 2013, and serves as an extension of St. Francis Hospital's efforts to alleviate health disparities

"There is a natural partnership between the Urban League and the hospital," Cochrane said. "Men, particularly black men, feel more comfortable walking into a community agency like the Urban League than a hospital."

The center also offers classes for people who have diabetes, including food preparation.

"I rank this very high in terms of service to the community," she said.

Former Urban League colleague Taquonda Wilson speaks fondly of her time working with Cochrane. Wilson recounted a time when she witnessed Cochrane help a homeless person obtain money for a security deposit for an apartment and a voucher for furniture from a major retailer.

"Adrienne Cochrane is the epitome of a great servant leader," said Wilson, who is a Healthy Start outreach specialist for the Urban League. "I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to work under her leadership."

On the job

Guiding business principle: My father taught me to respect my personal brand and to maintain a standard higher than anyone could impose.

Best way to keep your competitive edge: I am constantly competing with myself to do better, be better. I cannot ask of others what I do not require of myself.

Proudest accomplishment: My two sons

Goal yet to be achieved: Striking the right balance between work life and home life. I tend to get too consumed in the former.

Favorite part of the job: Positively impacting the lives of people by empowering them to take control of their own destiny.

Least favorite part of the job: Losses of any kind.

Judgment calls

Best business decision: Learning to trust myself.

Worst business decision: Allowing fear to overtake judgment early in my career thus torpedoing a great opportunity.

Biggest missed opportunity: There is a difference between 'an' opportunity and 'my' opportunity. When something is my opportunity it will not be missed. I don't believe in coincidence in the context of opportunities.

Best way to spot trends: Stay well-informed and well-versed. You will not become a subject-matter expert on everything, but you will learn enough to keep yourself current and relevant.

Next big move: That chapter of my life is still under construction.

Your pet peeve: Rude, distracted driving. How red does the light need to be before you stop?

Personal side

City of residence: Bloomfield

Favorite way to relax: Chilling with friends and family

Hobbies: Reading, traveling, theatre, movies and I love to dance!

Last vacation: Hawaii

Favorite movie: "Scent of a Woman."

The car you drive: BMW 5 Series

Currently reading: Anything I get my hands on.

Favorite cause: Any cause that uplifts and empowers.

Second choice career: Selling snow cones on a beach, any beach!

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