Jean Cochran, the woman behind the voice that greeted millions of listeners on National Public Radio every morning for more than 30 years, is calm, authoritative and a little bit wry.
Cochran, 61, who took a buyout from NPR in 2013, will be one of two keynote speakers at the Women Leading Kentucky 15th Annual Women's Business & Leadership Conference on May 8.
In a recent telephone interview, Cochran, who's originally from Cincinnati and is a graduate of American University, described her five-minute newscast on NPR as "a haiku of news."
Her newscasts have aired live on 849 member stations nationwide, heard by nearly 27 million listeners every week.
She is relishing exploring other work options, so don't call her retired, she said.
"I don't like the word retired," Cochran said. "I'm still working for NPR in the sense that I'm a bench player," allowed to work 30 days a year.
She's also considering working in other areas that use her vocal and journalistic talents.
"I'm branching out, trying all different things to find out what I like and what works for me," Cochran said. "I don't need or want a full-time job, but I would like to do more public speaking and narration."
Among the most challenging and rewarding stories to write, Cochran said, were obituaries: "It's a different kind of writing. It's a challenging way of writing."
Hers was a life lived by the clock — especially the 2 a.m. alarm, which she is grateful rings no more.
"I'm floating in space. It's overwhelming how much choice there is," she said.
The job of keeping the news up to date and compactly delivered left little time for much else during the work day.
"You don't go to meetings," Cochran said of her former job. "You don't hang out at the water cooler. ... You're just there, nose to grindstone, reading the news, writing the news, delivering the news."
At the May 8 women's conference, the organization will present its 2014 Martha Layne Collins awards, named for Kentucky's first female governor, to three women: Josephine Richardson of Whitesburg, an arts advocate, businesswoman and founder of Appalshop; Cathy Zion of Louisville, publisher of the magazines Today's Woman, Today's Transitions and Today's Family; and Roszalyn M. Akins of Lexington, an educator and community leader.
Besides Cochran, the other keynote speaker will be Kim Hodous, who calls herself the "kitchen table CEO," an author and business coach.
Women Leading Kentucky is a professional network of women and men committed to helping women lead, learn and achieve, through networking events, lectures, workshops and mentoring.
The organization was founded by Janet Holloway in 1999 after she left her post as statewide director of the University of Kentucky Small Business Development Center.
The group has provided $125,000 in scholarship award money given to women attending Kentucky colleges and universities.