Stephen Cochrane, executive director and chief investment officer of the $3.1 billion North Dakota State Investment Board and North Dakota Retirement and Investment Office, Bismarck, died Saturday. He was 53.
“Our investigation determined his death was a suicide,” said Sgt. Steve Hall, supervisor of the Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department’s investigations division. “The investigation determined it was a self-inflicted death by a firearm.”
Mr. Hall said the investigation is continuing. “We are waiting for the final report from the state medical examiner. The preliminary report of his death was ruled a suicide,” Mr. Hall said.
Mr. Cochrane’s body was found in his home at the Island Park Estates community north of Bismarck, Mr. Hall said. The sheriff’s department deputies were called to the scene by a 911 phone call from a family friend at 2:42 a.m. CDT Saturday, Mr. Hall said.
Debbie Cochrane, Mr. Cochrane’s wife, was the only other person in the house at the time, Mr. Hall said.
Sheriff’s police searched Mr. Cochrane’s office at the state investment board “for indications of anything involving his death and is still investigating,” Mr. Hall said. Investigators have “nothing concrete” on the reason for Mr. Cochrane’s suicide, Mr. Hall said. “There was no suicide note we can draw a conclusion from.”
Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple, chair of the North Dakota board, said the state investment board will meet April 23 to talk about a replacement.
“I do not know if we will use a (executive recruiting) search firm,” he said. In the interim, Mr. Cochrane’s duties are being divided among investment board staff.
“The state investment board and all of Steve’s friends were very saddened to hear of news of his untimely death and conveyed condolences to his family,” he said. “Steve was a great asset to us and will be surely missed.”
“He was a very capable, upbeat, enthusiastic guy,” he said, calling him “high energy” and “an outstanding investment leader.”
The board has made no public announcement about Mr. Cochrane’s death. “We have been kind of waiting for the family to convey word to the public,” Mr. Dalrymple said. “We felt the family should put out the first statement to the general public.”
The board “put out a brief e-mail to our engaged (money) managers that Steve had passed away,” Mr. Dalrymple said.
Kelly L. Schmidt, North Dakota state treasurer and trustee of the North Dakota board, said, “It’s a big loss to us.”
“We all want an opportunity for the family to work this out,” she said, declining to discuss interim operations of the fund. “We want to be very sensitive to the needs of the family. The obituary hasn’t been posted yet.”
Mr. Cochrane started at the board in January 1997, Ms. Schmidt said.
Fay Kopp, deputy executive director of the state investment board, and other officials of the fund couldn’t be reached, and further details were not immediately available.
Carol Wardlaw, vice president at Dimensional Fund Advisors, a money manager for the board, said Mr. Cochrane “was an extremely capable executive director. … He was a good friend and he will be missed.”
A memorial service for Mr. Cochrane is scheduled for 2 p.m. CDT Friday at Parkway Funeral Service, Bismarck, said Mark Scanson, Parkway funeral director. He will be cremated, Mr. Scanson said.
An obituary posted on the Parkway website said Mr. Cochrane and his wife of 20 years “were the definition of ‘soul mates.’”
Mr. Cochrane “was a loving husband and father who touched and inspired many,” the obituary said. “Stephen was passionate about the outdoors, adventure and, most importantly, his family.”
Along with his wife, Mr. Cochrane is survived by his children, Benjamin Cochrane, Jeffrey Conover, Timothy Conover, Shawna Cochrane and Heather Cochrane. He also is survived by a grandson, Carter; his first wife, Karen Lennard (mother of Benjamin); and his sisters, Camilla Cochrane, Lesley Quick and Kimberly Cochrane, the obituary said.
Mr. Cochrane’s family identified two organizations for donations in his memory, according to an e-mail from Connie L. Flanagan, fiscal and investment officer of the North Dakota Retirement and Investment Office and the state investment board:
• The Central Dakota Humane Society, 2104 37th Street, Mandan, ND 58554. Phone: 701-667-2020. https://secure13.softcomca.com/cdhs_net/How%20to%20Help/Make%20a%20Donation/donationform.htm.
• Shands Teaching Hospital at the University of Florida, Shands Office of Development, P.O. Box 100386, Gainesville, FL 32610. Phone: 352-265-0111. http://shandsgiving.org/giving.
In tributes posted on the Parkway website, Bob Toso, an investment board trustee, wrote in part, “He as also a great asset to the public employees of North Dakota and all of us will miss his leadership.”
Howard Sage, also an investment board trustee, wrote, “He was definitely a professional in every sense of the word and a mentor to us all.”