MCLA receives loan of "Megaplanet"


When Wendy Miner realized she'd have not just one but three of her four children attending MCLA in the fall, the Shelburne Falls resident realized that the College offered more than a campus that was close to home.

 "I have two sets of twins," Miner said. "Larissa was originally accepted to MCLA and Worcester State College. She decided to try Worcester's nursing program, but she just didn't like it. When she went back to look at the athletic training program at MCLA, she noticed how different it was from her first visit."

 For Larissa, MCLA was a great fit. She quickly adapted to her new campus and her new teammates on the women's basketball team.

 "While her twin sister is very happy at her college, I found out that my younger daughter Johanna was considering MCLA," Miner said. "The two of them talked about it and even though the campus is small, Larissa said it's big enough for the two of them. Then Johanna's twin brother threw himself into the mix, deciding last minute that he wanted to join his sisters."

 It was then that Miner knew she wanted to do something special for the College and approached her boss, renowned glass artist Josh Simpson about lending a piece of his work to the school on a long-term basis.

 "Josh knows all about what a great job they're doing there - he hears me brag about Larissa all of the time," she said. "He doesn't have a lot of work in the Berkshires, so I thought it would be a great thing for the College to have on display. I approached him about it and he said to go ahead and pick out one of the 'Megaplanets' he makes."

 Simpson makes intricately designed glass balls swirling with color and light, out of powdered glass, cane glass and gold leafing. The planet on loan to the College, which is about 8.5 inches in diameter, will be on display in the Admissions Office.

 "It's quite an unusual piece that we sent to the school," Simpson. "We have a very nice relationship with MCLA. I think Mary Grant is just an amazing leader -- she's charismatic and fun."

 Simpson also has some first-hand experience with the College. He and his wife, NASA astronaut Catherine "Cady" Coleman, were awarded honorary degrees by the College in 2004. Over the years, he's been impressed by both MCLA's blossoming science and art programs and said he has heard wonderful things from Miner's daughter during her visits to his studio.

 "I sort of have some boots on the ground with Larissa," he said. "I know it's a great school because I have Wendy who is with me every day telling me how great it is for her daughter, and I have Larissa telling me about the College when she comes home and visits the studio."