When Chris Brinton graduated from college with her double major (’71, Voc. Home Econ. & Educ.), she recalls only four career paths being available to women. “You could be a secretary, a nurse, a K-12 teacher, or a mother.” But Chris wasn’t inclined to bow to social pressure and give up her interest in educating people about money management. She taught just that at the community college level before going to work at Smith-Barney (now Morgan Stanley Smith Barney), a financial and investment portfolio management company.
“My background in family dynamics, which I got in my home ec studies at WSU, enabled me to bring all the financial technical terms down to earth. My relationships with clients were always educational,” Chris said. “We would spend three or four appointments together before actually doing anything with money.” Her insistence on laying a firm foundation based on an understanding of the client’s needs and preparation for the inevitable shifts in markets made her a successful financial manager.
Chris’s success also helped blaze a trail for other women to work in what had long been a males-only profession. “At Smith-Barney, I was only limited by my drive. I still get cards from my clients,” she said. “People only talk about money when it becomes a crisis. I tried to put financial planning in a positive light. It’s really the most intimate form of teaching.”
A few years ago, Chris was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Still a young woman and at the apex of her career, she retired from Smith-Barney. Then she learned that she could be treated with a stem cell transplant from a donor in Germany. Although severely taxed by the medical ordeal, the reprieve has given her a new lease on life. She now works as a volunteer with various organizations to educate people about transplants and help them understand how to get on stem-cell donor lists. The day after she sat for this interview, she left for Germany so that she could thank the man whose gift saved her life.
Chris urges young people to “look beyond the easiest path and expand your horizons. Push yourself to do some of the things that aren’t as easy and ask yourself, ‘What are the careers of the future going to look like?’” With role models like Chris Brinton pushing the envelope, anything is possible.
– by Brian Clark