If not for starting a fire in the chemistry lab, Mitchell Cole may never have discovered his true passion. “That happened during my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin, when I thought I would study chemistry,” he shared. “The professor suggested I find another course of study, so I picked finance.” That mishap, and Wisconsin’s cold temperatures, ultimately led Mr. Cole back home to Philadelphia and to Temple where he had taken some summer classes. “I liked the lectures at Temple a lot better,” he explains. “The classes were smaller and there was more one-on-one time with the professor. I remember taking an accounting class, which inspired me to take more business classes. Eventually, I took a risk and insurance class, which sparked my interest to learn more about risk management.” Mr. Cole has always believed that everyone needs “challenge” in their lives. “There’s nothing like some fear to focus one’s attention,” he quips. Professionally, Mr. Cole created new financial- and insurance-related services and products for Willis Towers Watson. Just prior to retiring, he created a way to secure retirees’ health insurance. “This was important to me, particularly at the end of my career when I really wanted to know that I had made things better for employees,” he says. Today, Mr. Cole finds his “challenge” by volunteering with The First Tee, a youth development organization that introduces the game of golf and its inherent values to young people. “We work with kids from all backgrounds and teach them values such as respect for themselves and others, honesty, integrity, and perseverance,” he says. Mr. Cole also volunteers for the Den for Grieving Kids, a bereavement program for children, and is currently working towards earning a master of arts in mental health and wellness counseling at New York University. Post-graduation, he expects to work with kids, adolescents, and young adults suffering grief and trauma. In 2010, Mr. Cole was honored to speak at the Fox School’s fall commencement ceremony. He offered graduates the following takeaways from his own career: “Work harder than your peers; be honest with yourself; make good decisions and don’t sweat the outcomes; dedicate yourself to superior quality; and never, never give up.”
Temple University Degree
Master of Business Administration ’72, Fox School of Business; Bachelor of Business Administration ’70, Fox School of Business
Title & Company
- Exxon Treasurers; McKinsey & Co.
- Managing Director, Willis Towers Watson (Retired 2017), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company
Temple University Awards & Affiliatons
- Cole Family Award Fund, which gives scholarships to financially needy, committed students in the Risk Program at the Fox School
- Commencement Speaker, Fox School of Business, Fall 2010
- Gallery of Success Award Winner, 2009
What I wanted to be when I was 20 years old
I recall thinking that being a professor would be of interest. I was influenced by two of my professors, Dr. Wayne Snider and Dr. Charles Hall.
Best piece of advice anyone ever gave me
When I was going through a tough time in 10th grade, my mother gave me a poem titled, ‘The Quitter.’ The theme is to persevere regardless of the odds and how dim the prospect for success; quitting is easy. I’ve leaned on that advice a lot throughout life: “And though you come out of each grueling bout, all broken and beaten and scarred, just have one more try — it’s dead easy to die, it’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard.”