Berkshire 25 of 2017
Celebrating the most dedicated, most creative and most influential
The Berkshires is made up of a unique and diverse group of individuals, all of whom make our community exceptional. From nurses and teachers to actors and entrepreneurs, these people connect us to one another and create the heart of our towns and villages. They are driven, compassionate, hard-working, determined, giving, and understanding—each one touching upon a different aspect of what sets the Berkshires apart in its vibrancy and beauty. This is our fourth year of honoring a select group of individuals. With the help of a panel of advisors, we proudly present the Berkshire 25.
Photos by Jake Borden
Asma Abbas, educator and political theorist, serves as a founder and executive director of the Hic Rosa Collective, a platform for critical public engagement in art, education, and politics. Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, she began teaching at Bard College at Simon’s Rock 12 years ago. She challenges the Berkshires to be a hospitable, diverse place by leading workshops on fascism and the refugee crisis. She will be a Fulbright-Masaryk Distinguished Chair in Social Studies in the Czech Republic this year.
Joe Baker, landscape artist, musician, art teacher, website designer, and community activist, wasinstrumental in saving the 1830s Wilson McLaughlin house, now the Monterey Community Center. When Monterey artist Edith Wilson passed away, she bequeathed her house and land to the town. It was Joe who had a clear vision of how the house could become a cultural, educational, and social hub. Over the next 12 years, he led a group of volunteers to create a place for the community to come together.
Hinda Bodinger founded Berkshire Baby Box in 2016. A year later, it was awarded Massachusetts Nonprofit Network’s 2017 Excellence Award after giving out hundreds of boxes to new and expectant mothers countywide. Hinda estimates another 1,000 boxes will be distributed this year. The goal is to provide newborns with some essentials and a safe sleeping space, and the nonprofit invites new mothers to workshops where they can gain access to valuable skills and resources throughout the Berkshires. Through Berkshire Baby Box, Hinda encourages moms to connect—with one another and with community support.
Shavelle Boire has been coaching the Pittsfield High School cheerleading squad for most of the past 18years. She is also a Western Mass coaches’ representative in the Massachusetts Secondary Schools Administrators’ Association. When she isn’t coaching, she is cheering on her twin 18-year-old sons who are entering UMass Amherst this fall, and running Spirited Shears Salon. She was also named Unsung Heroine by the Mass Commission on the Status of Women. She is a compassionate and driven individual who continues to leave her positive mark on the Berkshires.
Julianne Boyd is the Artistic Director of Barrington Stage Company, which she co-founded in 1995 and which was first housed in Mount Everett High School’s auditorium in Sheffield. Since then, she has grown the company into one of the Berkshire’s most popular regional theaters, based in Pittsfield. Not only has BSC produced numerous award-winning plays and musicals, it has engaged and challenged the community in the productions that it has presented, and its educational outreach is noteworthy. BSC states its mission as three-fold: to present top-notch, compelling work; to develop new plays and musicals; and to find fresh, bold ways to bring new audiences into the theater—especially young people. All this has been done under Julianne’s direction.
Darren Derby is a Pittsfield Police Patrol Officer who has built a relationship of trust and fun between community members and the police force. He recently stood up for a child who was bullied over his hair color. What he did went viral and even received the attention of Kelly Osborne. A big supporter of the Special Olympics, he participates in and fundraises for the event. Many describe him as a community hero.
Linda Burlak enters her 30th year teaching science and tenth year as academic dean at Buxton School, a progressive, co-ed, prep school of 90 students, many of whom refer to Linda as a role model and a generous mentor. She recently received the ninth annual James C. Kapteyn Prize for excellence in teaching. Her avocation is music, having sung with the Williams College choir, Celebrate Wassail!, and the Northern Berkshire Chorale. She now plays fiddle with Rosin the Beaux.
Michelle Derr is director of WIC and Family Services at CHP in Great Barrington. With over 20 years of service there, she is a strong advocate of CHP’s mobile health van. She is on the executive committee of the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, the WIC advisory board for the state, and the advisory council of Berkshire Baby Box. She also has a handcrafted garden-pots business.
Kathleen Hall, a retired Lee High School teacher, taught social studies and English for 33 years and coached academic teams and cheerleading. Today, she serves on the Lee School Committee and was instrumental in the building of a toddler playground at the Lee athletic field. Still to come: purchasing and installing playground equipment for the Bradley Street playground. For the past several years, she has helped organize the children’s activities for the Lee Founders Weekend.
Sally & Fred Harris had a vision seven years ago to save their cherished church in Great Barrington from the wrecking ball. They bought it, renovated it, and turned it into a community performance space. Today, Saint James Place is a beacon for the local neighborhood. Celebrating its opening this year, the venue now houses five nonprofits, the Great Barrington Soup Kitchen, a conference room, a large 300-seat theater, and several studios.
Tom Kelly is the program director for Project Connection, an after-school and summer program that offers activity-based experiential learning to support students’ academic, social, and emotional growth. In 2011, he secured a $225,000 federal grant to provide Berkshire Hills Regional School District’s most vulnerable families and students with much-needed support. He works with local groups such as Berkshire Botanical Garden and Berkshire Theatre Group to help even more Berkshire families.
Laurie Norton Moffatt, director and CEO of the Norman Rockwell Museum, guides the museum to display, preserve, and foster study of the art of Norman Rockwell and other illustrators. She has made it a gathering place where art has the power to shape and reflect society. Laurie studied art history at Connecticut College, which led her to get involved at the museum as a summer intern. Forty years later, she is still deeply committed.
Christopher Nye, who gives his time to various Berkshire-based nonprofit organizations, is board chair at Orion magazine, vice president of the Myrin Institute, and a founding member of the Great Barrington Land Conservancy. He also convenes monthly gatherings for area poets. During his 26 years with Berkshire Community College, he led the business and later sciences and engineering divisions, and then introduced service learning to the campus. Chris cares deeply about the Berkshires, holding it as an example of how people work together to solve problems.
Linda Sinopoli O’Brien is the backbone of UNICO Pittsfield, serving as the secretary to the president. She is involved in every event UNICO sponsors, endlessly contributing her time. She is always willing to help organize a new initiative, and her devotion has helped the organization grow.
Jayne Atkinson-Gill & Michel Gill are widely known for their roles in Netflix’s “House of Cards.” Despite their high demand, this creative couple have given support to local entities such as WAM, Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, and Chesterwood. They also have coached apprentices at Berkshire Theatre Group and Williamstown Theatre Festival, where Jayne recently appeared in The Clean House, and both serve on the board of the Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative.
Cara Petricca has devoted much of her life to rescuing injured, wild animals. She is a compassionate and determined wildlife rehabber at Bluebird Farm, a farm that helps animals who are sick, lost, or in need. She takes in domesticated and farm animals as well as wild animals. As a wildlife rehabilitator, Cara received certification on her own and finances her farm, including food, shelters, medicines, vets, and much more, by donations and hard work.
William “Smitty” Pignatelli is a Lenox native who has served as a State Representative for the 4th Berkshire District since 2003. Now serving his eighth term, he recently was appointed chairman of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. With more than 30 years as an elected official, Smitty’s commitment to the Berkshires has proven to be diverse and expansive as he negotiates through the many challenges the community faces.
Arthur “Art” Sherman is one of the reasons why there is a successful, vibrant and sustainable lifelong learning program in the Berkshires. He serves as a tireless volunteer with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), an organization that provides learning programs for community members who are over 50. He played a major role in ensuring its sustainability and its home at Berkshire Community College. Art is also the founder and chief benefactor of OLLI’s Mona Sherman Memorial Lecture series, which brings free lectures from nationally known figures.His legacy and impact on the older community in the Berkshires continues to grow.
Jenn Smith is the community engagement editor and education reporter at The Berkshire Eagle. She has the ability to naturally and professionally break down barriers between media and the community. Jenn is involved in community projects and is a trusted media voice for those who feel they have been negatively represented. She is also an advocate for in-school and out-of-school programs, and has proven to be a reliable link for connecting with media in other countries.
Ilana Steinhauer serves as the director of medical services at Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires. She first joined the team as an intern in 2006, after graduating from Wesleyan University with a degree in religion. Her time at VIM is what led her to pursue a career in medicine, earning a degree in nursing at Simmons College in Boston, as well as a master’s in nursing and family nurse-practitioner degrees. Ilana is described as organized, innovative, responsive, and able to see the big picture. She is also incredibly positive and sees the pluses in just about everything.
Alice Trumball, a kind and loving member of the Berkshire community, co-founded Moments House in Pittsfield with her daughter, Danielle. Alice works to help both patients with cancer and their loved ones. She has made a major impact on the whole community and especially the individuals who go to Moments House, giving them a place to receive support and provide them with guidance. The Berkshire community recently has come to support Alice, who is now battling cancer.
Tessa Kelly & Chris Parkinson are husband-and-wife architects and the founders of The Mastheads Writers’ Residency Program. The Mastheads hosted five writers from around the country in July. They collaborated with builders, engineers, poets, artists, and others to make this project possible, and plans are to continue the residency annually. The couple also spearheaded another community project by creating a special curriculum for the third-grade class at Morningside Elementary School that will continue to expand.
Selecting the 25 - Nominations were submitted by the community, then reviewed by a panel of advisors and the editorial department for final selection. This year’s panel: BIFF executive director Kelley Vickery, Soldier On artist in residence/case manager Nathan Hanford, and Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn.