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MCLA Alumni Association Recognizes Six Outstanding Members
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
02:51PM / Wednesday, October 25, 2023
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The alumni honored on Saturday were presented with clocks.

Kevin Pink, class of 2009, is the recipient of the Vanguard Award.

Benjamin Lamb, class of 2007, is presented the Service to the College Award.

Lindsay St. Pierre McGinnis, who earned her master of education in 2008, is presented the Outstanding Educator Award.

Laurie Dias-Mitchell, class of 1981, is the recipient of the Community Service and Citizenship Award.

James Chapman, class of 2015, is presented the Distinguished Alumnus Award

Michael Wynn accepts the Outstanding Educator Emeritus Award on behalf of his late grandmother, Arlene Wynn, class of 1963.

The luncheon was held in Murdock 218 during homecoming weekend.

Nominating Committee Chair Michael Obasohan, left, and President Jamie Birge welcome the gathering. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts recognized the contributions and legacy of a number of members of the college community during homecoming events this past weekend. 
Alumni Association Awards were presented on Saturday to six alum, including four local residents — Benjamin Lamb, Kevin Pink, Lindsay St. Pierre McGinnis and the late Arlene Wynn; Robert Bence, professor emeritus of history and political science, was honored later that afternoon with a scholarship in his name. 
"Thank you for joining us for this really important celebration of our alumni and friends of the college who have achieved so much in their lives both personally and professionally," said MCLA President James Birge in welcoming the association luncheon in Murdock Hall. "Whether you're a graduate of MCLA, North Adams State College or even State Teachers College of North Adams, you're bound together as members of one alumni association with 129 years of history and tradition, each playing a pivotal role in the institution's past, present and our future."
Michael Obasohan, chair of the nominating committee, said it had been difficult to select just six people and that it took the committee two days. 
"It was hours together trying to go through [nominations] ... everyone's doing some amazing things and it was just very hard for us to pick our recipients for today," he said. "And again, just speaks volumes of the things that our alum are doing."
Benjamin Lamb, class of 2007, a former city councilor and now vice president of economic development at 1Berkshire, was presented the Service to the College Award. He has participated in and served on numerous activities and boards as a student and graduate, including a year on the board of trustees and, after graduating with dual bachelors' degrees in biology and environmental studies, on the alumni board from 2012 to 2018. He has continued to be involved with the college as a corporator.
"This engagement with MCLA students has persisted and has included taking students to conferences during his seven years working at Williams College, hiring continually students as interns and continuing to provide free advisement," said Obasohan, also a city councilor and Pittsfield's chief diversity officer. "Benjamin said this informal engagement with students has been the most fulfilling service he has had the pleasure to provide."
Kevin Pink, class of 2009, is the recipient of the Vanguard Award. The Pittsfield High School graduate earned a bachelor's degree in history, political science and geography and works with Lamb as deputy director of economic development at 1Berkshire. He has volunteered with numerous organizations, was named a member of the Berkshire Berkshire Community College's 40 under 40 Class of 2022 and, with another alum, established a trivia event that has so far raised $13,000 for the Elizabeth Freeman Center.  
"He credits the MCLA history department faculty for sharpening his ability to analyze information, formulate an argument and defend a position," said Obasohan. "He is also grateful for his time as MCLa resident advisor for instilling in him a sense of adaptability, a dedication to serving the community and a willingness to reach out of his comfort zone."
Lindsay St. Pierre McGinnis, who earned her master of education in 2008, was presented the Outstanding Educator Award. A teacher at Hoosac Valley High School, she's been a member of the school's instructional leadership team for the past three years and of its College and Career Readiness Team for the past two years, organizing and hosting various speaker panels and events. She developed the high school's gardening program with a $25,000 grant and has written and received more grants to enrich environmental programming that allows students to engage in new experiences. 
"She says she feels most alive when her passion for teaching is paired with her love for the outdoors," said Obasohan. "As she continues to teach students about the natural world, its connectedness and the impact of humans, Lindsay also hopes to instill values of appreciation so that students will become lifelong learners and leave minimal impact on our planet."
James Chapman, class of 2015, was presented the Distinguished Alumnus Award, although Obasohan noted it could be difficult to understand the work he's been doing as assistant professor for mechanical and materials engineering at Boston University. After graduating with degrees in math and physics, he earned his doctorate in material science and engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
"He's worked on theoretical methods in simulation techniques to understand how disorder and materials can alter their properties," Obasohan said. "At Boston University, his research lab has been focused on developing new materials for energy and infrastructure applications with an emphasis on environmental and sustainability consequences."
Laurie Dias-Mitchell, class of 1981, was the recipient of the Community Service and Citizenship Award. She is  an award-winning K-through-12 educator, librarian and school administrator with 10 years of experience as a visiting lecturer at the college level. After graduating with a degree in English and communications, she earned her master's in library science from University of Rhode Island, a master's in English from Simmons College and a doctorate in educational leadership at Bethel University. She is superintendent of the Little Compton, R.I., School District. Dias-Mitchell has been deeply involved in community service, particularly in leading tutoring, reading and literary programs.
"Laurie is going above and beyond her duties as a superintendent volunteering to develop an educator, peer support program focused on teaching and well-being she's writing in collaboration with Newport Prevention Coalition and hopes to expand this program, the first of its kind in the nation, to eventually include all school districts in Newport County, Rhode Island," said Obasohan.
Wynn, class of 1963, was represented by her grandson, Michael Wynn, for the Outstanding Educator Emeritus Award, given posthumously. Wynn became one of region's first Black teachers in 1963 when she was hired by the Adams school district to teach English to fourth, fifth and sixth graders at the former Liberty Street School. The Girl Scout leader and Cub Scout den mother was also curriculum committee chair and president of the Adams Teachers Association.
The North Adams native had graduated from Drury High School and attended then North Adams State College for two years before receiving a bachelor's degree in English from Howard University in 1943. She returned after the war to graduate cum laude with a teaching degree and then her master's in 1965.
"Even with a degree, Arlene had a hard time finding a teaching job in Berkshire County, including her home of North Adams, and at least two of the rejections she felt there might have been some discrimination," Obasohan said. School Superintendent J. Franklin Farrell had told the local paper that he didn't care that Wynn was a person of color. "He said, 'she's a very good woman. And a good teacher and a citizen of this country.'"
"'As soon as people find out you're no different from anyone, you're accepted,'" Obasohan quoted Wynn as saying in response to questions about the Civil Rights Movement. "If more people get to know each other, as it is has been in Adams, it would do a lot more than this violence and this fighting ... It can begin with the children."
Michael Wynn, a Williams College graduate and retired Pittsfield police chief, said he didn't get to know his grandmother because she died not long after he was born. But he felt, whether you believed in nature or nurture, she had left her legacy of learning and higher education through her children and grandchildren. 
"I can't believe that she in that day and age probably had enough hope to ever believe that her grandson might come back to this campus both as an adjunct professor and a professional development instructor teaching in service to police officers in this very room," he said. 
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