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Dave Cocagne

Dave Cocagne

President/CEO, Vermilion Development | Chairman, Silver Birch Living | Class of 2000

Having served as a member of the board of trustees as a student and the alumni association board as a grownup, Dave Cocagne’s UI ties run deep.

So does his list of most influential Illini.

The short version:

— Craig Bazzani, former CFO, UI system. “During my last year, I was a student member of the board of trustees, and Craig was always candid and insightful. He treated students as peers.

“He has a wonderful sense of humor, which helped to defuse often challenging, difficult situations. He also was kind enough to make an introduction that led to an internship and my first post-college job. Craig remains a good friend and mentor.”

— Professor Dave Whitford. “He taught Case Studies in Corporate Finance or something similar. It was my toughest class at Illinois, and I learned an enormous amount.

“You were expected to come prepared to class — including reading the Wall Street Journal. At the beginning of the semester, he quickly weeded out those who weren’t serious about their preparations – he was tough.

“I gained an appreciation for his style as the semester unfolded and his high expectations brought out the best in us.”

— Michele Thompson, former secretary of the UI and board of trustees. “Michele may be the most dedicated servant of the University I have ever met. You could call her office at 6 in the morning or 8 at night, and she was always there.

“She was the principal interface for the board of trustees, and was almost an institution herself.”

A 2000 Gies College of Business grad and president/CEO of Vermilion Development, Cocagne now calls Chicago home. But he still knows away around campus, particularly ...

— The student government offices on the second floor of the Illini Union. “At that time, the student government offices were located near the Diana Fountain outside the Courtyard Cafe. I spent an enormous amount of time up there.

“One could open a window in the office and hear the water flowing in the fountain – it was very tranquil. Somebody must have put a bottle of Dawn or other dish soap in it because it was filled with bubbles for several hours one day. We all thought that it was funny — I’m sure several of us asked why we hadn’t thought of that idea — but I’m sure the maintenance team was not very happy.”

— The Quad. “I was just back on campus, and I can’t tell you how much I love that iconic space – it epitomizes the institution and all that it represents.”

— The President’s House. “I attended many functions there, and I still view it as one of the most elegant homes in which I’ve ever been. It was always a thrill to get an invitation to a dinner or reception there, and it still is.”