August 10, 2021, should have been one of the happiest days in Talan Cobb’s life, and it was to an extent.
That day, Talan was introduced as the new market president for the West Central Texas region of Big Brothers Big Sisters. There was plenty of joy the day Talan was introduced, but it was mixed with a fair share of sadness. She was stepping into the position that had been held since August 2016 by her and her husband’s friend, Mark Rogers, who was tragically killed in a car accident on March 13, 2021.
It was a job she came by naturally. Her father, Abilene optometrist Dr. Jimmy Wadley, and others helped save BBBS in the mid-1990s by securing funding to keep it running. A love for nonprofits was established early by both parents.
“They have been a major reason that I have chosen a philanthropic career,” Talan said, “and I want to do everything I can to give back to our community, specifically our nonprofit sector.”
Before that, Talan was director of Abilene’s Young Audiences, another nonprofit that serves Abilene’s youth. By June, she felt called to apply for the job that Mark had held.
“There is no replacing Mark Rogers,” Talan said. “I have been able to settle in and carry a baton that had to be passed – I was there and willing to take it and run with it.”
The Cobb and Rogers families have deep roots together; they are known to each other as “The Cogers.” Their friendship spans over 20 years and they became inseparably close after the births of each of their sons (the third child for each family, both following two older sisters). Each family member had a best friend to pair with. The families are members of Southern Hills Church of Christ, where Mark and Talan were members of the cast each summer for the church’s Vacation Bible School musical.
The families vacationed together, were neighbors, and lived life side by side. Talan, Mark, and Jenn all worked together running the Rogers’ grassroots nonprofit, World’s Okayest Mom, Inc (WOM). It was in her role as the vice president of WOM that Talan fell in love with nonprofit leadership and gained wisdom and knowledge from her dear friend, Mark.
A native Abilenian, Talan has a built-in love for the city and its many nonprofits that serve every segment. After graduating from Abilene High School, Talan set out on what turned out to be a winding path toward a college degree.
“My college history could be a novel,” she joked.
The plot would include stops at the University of Southern Mississippi, Abilene Christian University, and the University of Texas at San Antonio. It would end with an online degree in communications through Southern New Hampshire University after she fully leaned into her calling into the field of philanthropy. In hindsight, she can see how she was always learning and honing her skills in a way that has allowed her to connect in meaningful ways with people from diverse backgrounds.
“It’s safe to say that I have an insatiable love of learning, enjoy a multitude of various topics, and have a deep desire to understand how everything works,” Talan said. “My non-traditional college adventures gave me an abundance of life experience at a young age.”
Talan loves sharing those experiences with children, including those she serves in the workplace and her own three. In fact, Talan and her husband chose Abilene as their permanent residence in 2008 because of the city’s reputation as a good place to raise kids and nearness to family.
“We chose Abilene when we started talking about having children,” Talan said. “We couldn’t imagine raising a family anywhere else.”
Talan sets a good example every day for everyone involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters and is a Big Sister herself. She volunteers with the campus ministry for college students at her church and is an active mom in the lives of her children. She spends a lot of time at their concerts, athletic events, and school programs. If not at one of those functions or at work, she enjoys camping, learning and practicing survival skills, and building fires.
“And, finally, I deeply love music,” she said, including singing, playing the piano and watching performances. “If there is music involved, my spirit and soul are happy.”
Talan’s association with Big Brothers Big Sisters goes back a long way, and becoming the market president for West Central Texas seemed like a natural progression and a way to honor Mark Rogers. Like Mark, she wants to make an impact in the lives of those who need it most.
“Mark was my mentor,” she said, “and I’m now honored to lead an organization with a mission of supporting one-to-one mentoring.”
WHAT KEEPS YOU IN ABILENE?
It’s home, it’s where my people are, it’s where my heart is.
WHAT MAKES ABILENE UNIQUE?
The people–it’s the biggest small town there ever was.
WHAT OR WHO ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?
I’m passionate about my family and about loving people. I am a defender of potential. I want everybody to become their best, most authentic self, and I hope that I can help them see their inherent worth a little more clearly.
WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE ON THE JOB?
A typical day on the job involves administrative responsibilities that I try to tackle first thing in the morning, conversations and regular check-in’s with my staff, daily lunch meetings, Zoom meetings to connect with my BBBS Lonestar colleagues, and lots of networking and presenting the BBBS mission sprinkled throughout the week. I try to front load my work week and tackle the biggest projects early in the week, and also early in the day, and allow my days and weeks to become lighter towards the end. I don’t ever want to leave work feeling unfinished.
BOOK: The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
FOOD: Homemade Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings)
By Loretta Fulton