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MCLA Announces Distinguished Alumni Awards
12:46PM / Friday, September 29, 2017
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This year's Distinguished Alumni recipients with MCLA President James F. Birge. 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.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts announces that this year's Distinguished Alumni Awards were given to Jamal Ahamad '11, Wayne A. Soares '89, Susan A. Bell '97, Russell J. Pearce '60, Daniel J. Trombley '90 and Ellen L. Kennedy '83, who were honored at an awards ceremony as part of MCLA's annual reunion weekend, on Saturday, Sept. 23.

Ahamad received the Young Alumnus Award, which is presented to the individual who, within 10 years of their MCLA commencement, has shown significant growth in their chosen profession and/or career path, received recognition as an emerging leader through professional and/or community achievements, and served as an outstanding role model for current and future MCLA students.

The founder of his own multimedia business, Ahamad Multimedia, Ahamad graduated from MCLA in 2011 with a bachelor of arts degree in creative writing and arts management. He returned to MCLA in 2014 as the alumni relations coordinator, and a year later re-enrolled as a student to pursue a master of education, a degree he expects to complete in 2020. Ahamad recently joined the staff at BArT Charter Public School serving as the eighth-grade English language arts teacher, hip-hop instructor and student support monitor.

Soares, who graduated from the college in 1989 with a degree in English/Communications, received the Humanitarian Award, which is presented to the person who demonstrated a record of service to his or her community, and to the world at large. He spent over a decade on the airwaves for ESPN radio and was a broadcaster for the New York Mets' minor league teams. As the head of his own production company, Jess Productions, he coordinates his own publicity and scheduling, and also has starred in several full-length movies and produced a short documentary.

His one-man show has taken him around the globe from tactical bases for the United States Military in Afghanistan and Iraq to its largest regional medical center in Landstuhl, Germany. In addition, Soares 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. He 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."

Bell, who graduated in 1997 with a bachelor of arts degree in history, received the Outstanding Educator Award, in recognition of one who has shown continued and dedicated service to their students and their profession and a commitment to developing the potential of all students. This award recognizes K-16 educators, from all areas of education, who have made significant contributions to support and enhance the education of students through innovative classroom practices, programming, extracurricular activities, committee or community work.

A former high school principal for Windsor Locks Public Schools, she earned a doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership and was appointed superintendent in 2014. She went on to lead her teacher colleagues in 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. Because of Bell's collaborative work with her faculty and the Board of Education, Windsor Locks now is 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.

Pearce, a 1960 graduate of the former State Teachers' College of North Adams, received the Outstanding Educator Emeritus Award, given to recognize and honor an individual whose life’s work was dedicated to education and whose teaching impacted their students, school, and community. In 1971, he received 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, and in 1974, he received a Fulbright Travel Study Scholarship to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Upon his return to the classroom as a social studies teacher at Hackett Middle School in Albany, N.Y., 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.  Active in the Franco-American Federation of New York State, he served as educational attache and past president. After a 35 year teaching career, he retired in 1995.

Trombley, who graduated in 1990 with a bachelor of science degree in business administration, received the Outstanding Service to the College Award, which is given to the individual who has demonstrated a record of service to the Alumni Association and/or the college. A certified public accountant for more than 20 years, he is the chief financial officer for LGI Holdings, headquartered in The Woodlands, Texas, and since 2014 has been the owner of Alton and Westall Real Estate Agency in Williamstown.

Trombley has served on the MCLA Foundation Board of Directors since 2009, including as treasurer from 2012-15, and as the current chair of the Foundation Board of Directors.

Kennedy, who graduated from the former North Adams State College in 1983 with a bachelor of science degree in business administration, received the Distinguished Alumnus Award, given to the individual with a history of achievement in one or more of the following: community, state, regional or national service, and/or the individual must have made a significant leadership contribution to a state/regional/national organization that does not come under the purview of his/her profession.

She was unanimously elected interim president of Berkshire Community College (BCC)  in January 2012, and became its official seventh president later that July. Since assuming this role, she has overseen the planning for a $23 million dollar bond from the Commonwealth to renovate its main academic buildings, and spearheaded a unique partnership with Taconic High School in Pittsfield, in the area of advanced manufacturing benefiting both BCC and high school students. In addition, she forged the relationship between BCC's Berkshire Enterprise program and 1Berkshire, expanding services to local businesses in obtaining workforce training fund grants.

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