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2019 Honorary Degree Recipients

 

Neal

Congressman Richard E. Neal
Honorary Doctor of Public Service Degree
Commencement Speaker


Born in Worcester and raised and educated in Springfield, Neal first was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988. He is the ranking member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee and an at-large whip for the House Democrats. He is a co-chairman of the New England Congressional Caucus, where he advocates for the unique regional interests of the six New England States. In addition, he is the Democratic Leader of the Friends of Ireland Caucus.

A lead sponsor of legislation to prevent American companies from moving offshore to avoid paying U.S. taxes, Neal has sponsored legislation to increase the national savings rate by encouraging the use of individual retirement accounts, and has worked to make health care and tuition expenses tax deductible for middle class people. He successfully led the charge to eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for middle-class families in America, and has a long legislative history of fighting to preserve and protect Medicare and Social Security.

A long-time guest lecturer at the UMASS-Amherst, Neal also serves as a Trustee at Mount Holyoke College. He is a National Trustee of John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. In addition, he served as the Mayor of the City of Springfield from 1984 to 1988.

Neal is a graduate of American International College, where he received his bachelor’s degree in political science, and was a member of the National Honor Society. He received his master’s degree in public administration from the Barney School of Business and Public Administration at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Conn.

 

alcombright,dick

Richard Alcombright
Honorary Doctor of Public Service Degree


Alcombright serves as vice president, local business and customer relations manager at MountainOne. Part of MountainOne companies before he decided to run for the Office of Mayor of North Adams in 2009, Alcombright previously served as the senior vice president of retail banking.

As North Adams’ mayor, Alcombright maintained a strong commitment to fiscal policy. During his tenure, he oversaw successive balanced budgets and rebuilt the city’s financial reserves to nearly $2 million. Grants to various city projects included those that benefited the Colegrove Park Elementary School, MASS MoCA, the Scenic Rail Trail, the Greylock Mill, the Extreme Model Rail and Contemporary Architecture Museum, the Hoosic River Revival Project, the completion of the Berkshire Bike Path from Williamstown to the Harriman and West Airport in North Adams in partnership with the town of Williamstown and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

After the closing of North Adams Regional Hospital, Alcombright worked with Berkshire Health Systems and state government to establish medical services at the campus of Berkshire Medical Center North, including emergency services, imaging, labs, general outpatient surgery, wound care, dialysis, and much more.

He served nine years as a North Adams city councilor, for 19 years as a member of the McCann Technical School Committee, and in many other elected positions for the city. He also has held leadership roles with an array of local organizations for many years, including Northern Berkshire United Way, YMCA, Berkshire Rides, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, Hospice of Northern Berkshire County, Tri-Parish Finance Council, and the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s Opioid Addictions and Overdose Prevention Task Force. He currently sits on the boards of Berkshire Community Action Council, Berkshire Health Systems, Holy Family Terrace, and all Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, committees that address addiction, prevention and recovery.

Alcombright holds an associate’s degree in accounting from Southern Vermont College in Bennington, Vt., and is a graduate of the National Association of Mutual Savings Bank's School of Banking at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn.

 

ShirleyE

Shirley Edgerton
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

Edgerton is the director of Youth Alive, Inc., a position she has held since 1995. She uses the Youth Alive step dance program as a vehicle to engage young women in educational and mentoring programs. She also serves as the cultural proficiency coach for Pittsfield Public School, where she works with cultural competence training, peer-to-peer mentoring, and recruitment.

She is the founder and director of the Rites of Passage and Empowerment Program, which emphasizes and encourages holistic self-discovery for young women. For more than 19 years, Edgerton served as director of Residential Programs for the Department of Developmental Services of Berkshire County for the Commonwealth. In addition to managing the state-operated residential program, this work included coordinating the summer youth employment program for six residential programs in western Massachusetts.

The founder of the Women of Color Giving Circle and co-founder of Lift Ev’ry Voice: Celebrating African American Culture and Heritage, Edgerton’s volunteer service to the region also includes serving on MCLA’s Board of Trustees in 2010, as well as on the steering committee for the Berkshire Priorities Literacy Project in 2011. In addition, she was a member of the board of directors for the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, 2005-09.

Edgerton earned her Master of Education degree in educational leadership and administration from MCLA in 2007, and is a graduate of Herbert Lehman College at the City University of New York, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth’s public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.