2017 Alumni Association Awards

Last year's Distinguished Alumni recipients. Top from left, Wayne A. Soares '89, MCLA President James F. Birge, Ellen L. Kennedy '83.
Bottom from left, Daniel J. Trombley '90, Russell J. Pearce '60, Susan A. Bell '97 and Jamal Ahamad '11.

The MCLA Alumni Association held its annual awards ceremony on Saturday, September 23, during Reunion Weekend. This year's recipients join the ranks of past distinguished alumni, all of whom embody the ideals of compassion, leadership, and dedicated service that define the core values of what an education from MCLA represents.

This event recognizes the achievements of past graduates of the College by presenting the following awards: Distinguished Alumnus Award, Service to the College Award, Humanitarian Award, Young Alumnus Award, Outstanding Educator Emeritus Award, and Outstanding Educator Award.

Young Alumnus Award

Jamal Ahamad '11

Jamal graduated from MCLA in 2011 with a bachelor of arts degree in creative writing and arts management. Upon graduating, he worked as a special education substitute teacher and MassGrad site coordinator for the Pittsfield Public School system. In 2012, Jamal began his career in dance as the multimedia designer and hip-hop instructor for Berkshire Dance Theatre. In 2013, he took on the additional responsibility of choreographer and multimedia designer for dysFUNKcrew, a role he continues today.

Jamal volunteered at MCLA as a Berkshire COMPACT 3rd-12th grade committee member, as well as with 1Berkshire as both a Berkshire Initiative for Growth videographer and, later, a youth leadership program steering committee member. 

In 2015, Jamal acted as a HiSET instructor and youth counselor for BerkshireWorks Career Center while, simultaneously, taking on the role of hip-hop instructor for The Funk Box Dance Studio, maintaining both positions until early 2017. In recognition of his work and volunteer efforts, Jamal received one of Berkshire Community College’s 2016 40 Under Forty awards for young business and civic leaders. Jamal presently holds many media roles in Berkshire County dance organizations, and he recently joined the staff at BArT Charter Public School serving as the 8th grade English language arts teacher, hip-hop Instructor, and student support monitor.  

In 2016 Jamal founded his own multimedia business Ahamad Multimedia. He is also a guest faculty at the Olga Dunn Dance Company & School of Dance in Great Barrington, Mass..

Alumni Humanitarian Award

Wayne Soares '89

Wayne graduated from MCLA in 1989 with a degree in english communications. Following graduation, Wayne spent over a decade on the airwaves for ESPN radio, interviewing numerous athletes and spending a period of time as a broadcaster for the New York Mets’ minor league teams. After his tenure in radio ended, he spent two years as a publicist for the Lee Solters company in Hollywood, California where he coordinated public events and created exposure for the firm’s celebrity clients. In 1999 he became the CEO of JB Sports Enterprises, where he continued to coordinate public events and endorsements for professional athletes that the company managed. Leaving the company in 2005, Wayne has spent the last decade at the helm of his own production company, Jess Productions where he coordinates his own publicity and scheduling.

Wayne also devotes a large portion of his time bringing laughter and inspiration to our men and women of the United States Military as well as to our veterans. His One-Man Show has taken him around the globe from tactical bases in Afghanistan and Iraq to the Military’s largest regional medical center in Landstuhl, Germany. Wayne’s work received international attention last year when he was featured on the BBC Network.

Wayne is on a mission to improve and impact lives by helping individuals, especially young people, overcome adversity and obstacles, providing techniques to help develop self-confidence. A master storyteller, his message is unique and powerful and has equipped thousands of students and student-athletes with the tools needed to navigate challenging situations. Wayne begins his second season as a spokesman for Red Sox Hall of Famer Jason Varitek’s Pitching in for Kids Foundation’s national anti-bullying campaign, “Be Kind, Always.” Last year Wayne brought his powerful message to 100 schools and to over 50,000 students, including visits to the North Adams public school system. 

He is the author of four inspirational books and last year he returned to the college to give the keynote address for the 2016 MCLA Leadership Conference.

Outstanding Educator Award

Susan Bell '97

After graduating in 1997 with a bachelor of arts in history, Susan attended UMass Amherst where she received a master’s degree in school counselor education in 2001, and a certificate of advanced study in school counseling with a focus on multicultural conflict resolution. Susan began what would lead to a sixteen-year career for the Windsor Locks Public Schools first as a high school counselor followed by an appointment as director of guidance then school principal. In 2010, she left her position as high school principal and moved down to the middle school level to be assistant principal while attending the University of Hartford; receiving a doctorate of education in educational leadership. Prior to being appointed superintendent in 2014, she served as assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, and assessment. 

In these positions, Susan led her teacher colleagues to successfully create large-scale school improvements with the introduction of the professional learning community model, inclusive of release time for teachers to design and execute plans for improving their craft and improving student achievement.

In addition, Susan led her faculty in completing a successful New England Association of Schools and Colleges Accreditation self-study and decennial evaluation visit. Because of Susan’s collaborative work with her faculty and the Board of Education, Windsor Locks is now in its fourth year of shifting to a mastery-based, personalized learning system, and the class of 2020 will be the first graduating class to earn a mastery-based diploma.

Susan has been a volunteer council member of the New England Secondary Schools Consortium in Connecticut since the end of 2015, and was the sole educator from Connecticut invited to attend the National Summit on Competency-Based Education sponsored by iNacol. In collaboration with her superintendent colleagues across Connecticut, she was a contributing member to the Next Ed, Next Steps, a publication establishing the vision for Connecticut’s Education System (CAPSS) developed by the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendent and serves on Educational Transformation Project Subcommittee of CAPSS.

Outstanding Educator Emeritus Award

Russell Pearce '60

Russell arrived on the campus of the State Teachers College at North Adams in 1956. With a total student body of 200, his class was made up of many veterans returning from the Korean War attending college on the GI Bill. His freshman year, Russell discovered the Social Sciences to be his passion, which would eventually lead him to many different parts of the world. 

Upon graduation, Russell taught at Greenfield High School for a year and then left to go to graduate school where he earned an MA in history from Long Island University. Returning to the area after his graduate studies, he settled in Albany, NY, where he began a teaching career in the Albany Public School System, at both the middle school and high school level. 

In 1971, Russell was awarded a Middle Eastern Studies grant at Hebrew University in Israel. In 1972 he was the recipient of a University of Vermont Donner Foundation grant for the study of the Atlantic Provinces of Canada, Ontario, and Quebec. In 1974, he applied for a Fulbright Travel Study Scholarship to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Out of hundreds of applicants, Russell was one of only 20 who were chosen to receive one of these prestigious scholarships that year, providing him the opportunity to travel throughout these countries studying and meeting with some of South Asia’s political, educational, and cultural leaders. 

Upon his return to the classroom as a social studies teacher at Hackett Middle School in Albany, NY, Russell applied what he had learned from his study and travel in the Canadian Northeast, the Middle East, and South Asia to his classroom teachings. Through his talks and lectures, he raised awareness of these areas at a time when there was little awareness about the Islamic world.

Russell has been active in the Franco-American Federation of New York State, where he served as educational attaché and past president. After a 35 year teaching career, he retired in 1995.

Outstanding Service to the College Award

Daniel Trombley '90

Dan Trombley, of Williamstown, graduated from the MCLA in 1990 with a bachelor of science degree in business administration. While a student at MCLA, he was a member of the accounting society and actively involved in intramurals.

Following graduation, Dan has been a successful certified public accountant with more than 20 years of accounting and finance experience, with 15 of those years serving in the capacity of controller and chief financial officer of residential development and housing companies. Dan formerly worked at Adelson and Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and was the former controller and treasurer for Inland Management Corporation, a private real estate company owned by local real estate developer Harry Patten. Dan is currently chief financial officer for LGI Holdings, headquartered in Woodlands, Texas, and since 2014 owner of Alton & Westall Real Estate Agency in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

In recognition of his scholastic achievement in business subjects and promoting scholarship in training for business, Dan was initiated into Delta Mu Delta honor society.  

Serving on the MCLA Foundation Board of Directors since 2009, he served as treasurer from 2012-2015, and is the current chair of the Foundation Board of Directors.

Distinguished Alumna Award

Ellen Kennedy '83

Ellen, a native of Lynn, Massachusetts, graduated from North Adams State College in 1983 with a bachelor of science in business administration. She then attended the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst; receiving a master of business administration degree in 1989. Ellen joined the MCLA staff in January 1997 as director of administrative services through January 2000 and served as chief advancement officer from 2000-2003. Ellen left MCLA and began working as the director of development for WFCR New England Public Radio from 2003-2006. While working in this position, she also attended the Harvard Kennedy School of Government receiving a master’s of public administration degree. 

In 2008, Ellen joined Berkshire Community College as vice president for administration and chief financial officer and dean of administration and finance, while attending Northeastern University receiving a doctor of education in education degree in 2013. Ellen was unanimously elected interim president of Berkshire Community College in January of 2012 and became its official 7th president later that July.  

Since assuming the leadership role at BCC, Ellen has overseen the planning for a $23 million dollar bond from the Commonwealth to renovate the College’s main academic buildings, and spearheaded a unique partnership with Taconic High School in Pittsfield, Mass. in the area of advanced manufacturing benefiting both BCC and high school students. She has also forged the relationship between BCC’s Berkshire Enterprise program and 1Berkshire, expanding services to local businesses in obtaining workforce training fund grants. In 2017 working in collaboration with MCLA President Dr. James Birge, BCC and MCLA signed an articulation agreement to benefit students who earn an associate degree in early childhood education at BCC and wish to continue their studies at MCLA to earn a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies.

Ellen was awarded the Women of Achievement Award in 2013 by the Berkshire Business and Professional Women for her achievements at Berkshire Community College and in the Berkshire County community, and in 2015 received the She Knows Where She’s Going Award at the 25th annual Ruth P. Boraski Celebration event.

Prior to her arrival at MCLA, she attended the Center for Natural Wellness School of Massage Therapy where she became a licensed massage therapist and started a private practice in Bennington, Vermont.
She then attended MCLA and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2009. While at MCLA she made Dean's List every semester, was inducted into Alpha Lambda Delta and Alpha Chi, and graduated Magna Cum Laude. She was a member of the Biology Club and served as a Teaching Assistant for several upper-level Biology laboratory courses, including Cell Biology. In her senior year she was the recipient of the Biology Achievement Award.
After graduation she continued on to New York Chiropractic College where she earned the degree of Doctor of Chiropractic. During the completion of her graduate degree, she was chosen to be a chiropractic intern at the nation’s largest military teaching hospital, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland where she provided chiropractic care for Wounded Warriors and Active Duty Military personnel. She also participated in rotations in several allopathic departments.
She is currently a chiropractor in the Burlington, Vermont area for Chittenden County Chiropractic.  She has established a relationship with the area’s teaching hospital, Fletcher Allen Health Care, a University of Vermont affiliate, where she furthers her knowledge in the departments of Spinal Orthopedics, Neuroradiology, Neurosurgery, and Obstetrics.
Since graduating, Tori returns annually to the MCLA campus to present on the field of Chiropractic Medicine to students in Dr. Ann Billetz’s Freshman Biology Seminar.  She was also the Keynote speaker at the 2014 MCLA Undergraduate Research Conference.  
Tori, because of your respect and dedication to the health and well being of humanity, your passion for continual learning, and for your leadership skills in your profession and community.



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