The Berkshire 25 for 2019
The Berkshires is not just the expansive forests, verdant mountains, and refreshing springs that bolster its bucolic charm; it is the abundance of hardworking residents, so many of whom pour their passion into everything they do for the region. From fire chiefs and filmmakers, to librarians and entrepreneurs, these individuals are the backbone of our community. We are now in the sixth year of honoring the keystone members of our vibrant, diverse area. With the help of a panel of advisors, we proudly present this year’s Berkshire 25.
Stephen Boyd is the CEO of Boyd Technologies in Lee and is spearheading the Berkshire Innovation Center (BIC) to stimulate economic growth regionally by increasing innovation, knowledge sharing, and deal flow within the BIC’s ecosystem and its community of stakeholders. He is a board trustee at Berkshire Country Day School and an advisor to Governor Charlie Baker on the Massachusetts Economic Development Planning Council. State Senator Adam Hinds says Stephen is instrumental in “expanding the innovation capacity and growth in life sciences, advanced manufacturing, and technology.” Stephen also volunteers as a coach for Berkshire Hills Youth Soccer Club.
Chief Ryan Brown, the first full-time fire chief in Lee and the fourth generation in his family to follow this path, succeeded in his mission to upgrade the fleet with new ambulances. Colleagues say Ryan puts in hours of overtime and is a great champion of Lee. He is also a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, which serves as a platform for international networking, and is an instructor at the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy, a role that sharpens the 32-year fire service veteran’s skills and keeps his knowledge current.
Brian Cruey is the general manager of Naumkeag and director of properties for The Trustees of Reservations in the Southern Berkshires, meaning he oversees other charming properties like Ashintully Gardens and Bartholomew’s Cobble. In July, he hosted a garden party featuring the reflective balloon/art installation New Horizon and a night of music and cocktails. Previous successes include Winterlights and the Daffodil Festival, both attracting thousands to the grounds of Naumkeag. Colleagues describe Cruey as a hardworking, creative community leader and collaborator. “He’s not afraid to try new projects to bring in new people,” says Becky Cushing, director of Mass Audubon’s Berkshire Sanctuaries.
Linda Dulye is the founder and CEO of Dulye & Co., an employee engagement and workplace communication consultancy. Linda manages the Dulye Leadership Experience, which offers learning and networking programming for personal and professional development. She also runs open forum workshops for young and old alike to gain essential skills and take action to support civic, community, and business vitality. As an active member of the community, Linda serves on the board of the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation, volunteers as a Conte Community School academic tutor, is an African Catholic Community leader, and is a local radio announcer.
Kate Lauzon is chair of the Morningside Neighborhood Initiative and one of the lead collaborators at Tyler Street Lab, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bettering the Morningside community. She helped with initiating the BagShare program in Pittsfield, which reduces waste thrown in landfills by utilizing scrap materials for sewing bags. Enrolled at Berkshire Community College while raising her three children, she is considered a pioneer in Pittsfield, as well as a tireless advocate for those in need.
Craig Langlois has over ten years at Berkshire Museum under his belt and is now its chief experience officer, responsible for its exhibitions, vast collection, and programs, including the Free School program, which offers free museum access. Craig is also on the board of the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area and is a committee member of Pittsfield Promise. Craig continues to be one of the Berkshire’s most steadfast proponents of education and is doing everything he can to ensure that all kids have access to learning.
Yo-Yo Ma, renowned cellist with an equal amount of talent and heart, is currently in the midst of his two-year global initiative, “The Bach Project,” which involves solo performances and a Day of Action in 36 communities throughout the world, including right here in Pittsfield. His goal is to cross cultures to encourage community strength and understanding. With a second home in the Berkshires, Yo-Yo is no stranger to the county, and if you spot him at an event or in town, you will surely see him smiling as he chats with fellow residents.
Mark Makuc, Monterey’s longstanding librarian, keeps the library scene alive and thriving with book clubs, art shows, holiday events, and youth programs—and he just oversaw the library’s renovation. Mark also cofounded the Monterey Oral History Project, giving him an opportunity to share his passion for the town’s history. Aside from his librarian duties, he responds to fire calls as one of the two captains of the Fire Department and has been the moderator for town meetings for 35 years.
Eileen Maxfield has volunteered at Lee Food Pantry for about 25 years and only recently retired from the Lee Council on Aging, where she was one of their drivers. She still brings seniors to appointments across the county and beyond—there in an instant for anyone who calls for a ride. Eileen also visits and delivers food, sometimes her own baking! The 86-year-old is regarded as a proud, selfless woman who has a hard time saying no to anyone in need and gives freely and generously.
Jason “Jake” McCandless is dedicated to reducing violent behaviors among students and instituting better trauma-informed practices. The Pittsfield schools superintendent is determined to make the district more culturally competent by partnering with local organizations. He is a parent of two, on the education board for Barrington Stage, and on the board of United Cerebral Palsy of Western Mass. Mayor Linda Tyer praises his “devotion to every child, parent, administrator, and teacher.”
David Nicholas is the owner, operator, and head chef of Bounti-Fare Restaurant and Catering in Adams, considered a community center where weekly open-mic nights and live-music weekends happen. David doesn’t reveal all of his volunteering stints, so many aren’t aware that he has prepared food for people affected by natural disasters and hosts an annual fundraiser for Berkshire County Kids’ Place. Additionally, he is a member of the nonprofit group ProAdams, which promotes growth, good character, and vibrancy in Adams.
Larry Oberwager is the director of Tanglewood Business Partners, as well as an active member of the Lenox Chamber of Commerce and 1Berkshire. Colleagues say that Larry finds an abundance of joy in his work; all of his choices are made with thoughtfulness and passion. He is also a big fan of the arts, attending and supporting local theater productions and making frequent trips to the county’s famed museums. As some put it, the Berkshires is a better place because of Larry.
Diane Pearlman is the executive director of the Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative (BFMC), a nonprofit organization committed to promoting and facilitating film and media production in the Berkshires. BFMC spotlights the county and creates jobs and revenue for local businesses, and its new initiative, the Community Film Fund, supports local nonprofits to have a voice through video for marketing and communications. Diane is also chairman of the board of Berkshire Pulse. Among her extensive repertoire of films is the locally shot A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud., which she produced in 2017.
Bruce Peeples is the man behind Tanglewood’s beloved green landscape. As the grounds manager since 2012, he ensures the space is pristine, maintaining turf, trees, shrubs, and flowers. During the summer concert season, Bruce switches hats at night, coordinating logistical and facilities needs. He and his team are responsible for cleaning up the grounds each morning, getting ready for another busy Tanglewood day. He is also the BSO representative for the Stockbridge Bowl Association.
Christa Proper is the founder and CEO of Proper Connections, a family-run technology consulting company in New York, with a second office in Pittsfield. It has donated to Berkshire Humane Society, Dana Farber Cancer Fund, and local food drives, and has also sponsored the local youth hockey team at the Boys & Girls Club in Pittsfield. She got her start in the Berkshires and wants to return the favor by aiding the community that helped her grow into the influential businesswoman she is.
Alex Reczkowski is director of Berkshire Athenaeum, prioritizing community building and expanding Pittsfield library’s reach to more residents. He volunteers at Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity and the Pittsfield Rotary Club. He is an enthusiastic member of the Berkshire art scene, volunteering at Jacob’s Pillow, WAM Theatre, and MASS MoCA, as well as being a member of the Barrington Stage Company advisory board. Peers think of Alex as immensely thoughtful, the kind of person who lends a helping hand to anyone who needs it.
Jamie Samowitz and Jess Vecchia are the cofounders and directors of Roots Rising, a nonprofit whose mission is to empower youth and build community through food and farming. Through their Farm Crews, they hire Pittsfield teens to work on farms, in food pantries, and in gardens. They teach invaluable lessons about collaboration, meaningful work, and joy in giving back. With their help, Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market is being transformed into the first teen-run market in the region, a testament to their commitment to youth development and food access for all.
Eugenie Sills serves as interim executive director of the Clinton Church Restoration, for which she played a big part in acquiring a $75,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund—one of five grants she has helped to secure. Additionally, Eugenie is the principal of TWT Media, published the award-winning The Women’s Times for nearly two decades, and cofounded the biannual festival Lift Ev’ry Voice: Celebrating African American Heritage in the Berkshires, exhibiting her devotion to inclusion.
Jennifer Trainer is the president and CEO of Hancock Shaker Village, praised by her coworkers for being kind and inclusive, as well as being innovative in her programming and committed to the city of Pittsfield. Prior to her employment at the Village, Jennifer had tenure as senior vice president of partnerships and external affairs at MASS MoCA, where she spent 28 years of her impressive career, starting as director of development and PR. She directed the film Museum Town, a portrait of MASS MoCA, and you might recognize her as a model from Gregory Crewdson’s work Cathedral of the Pines, examples of her abounding connectivity to the arts.
Katie Wallick is the bright mind behind Katie’s Korner at the Lenox Library, a spot in which little kids can let their creative sides loose with activities such as storytime, singing, and “rainbow gardening.” Teens and adults are welcome, too, for movie nights and “Stitch Around” events, featuring handwork and tea. Katie was recently awarded a $15,000 federal Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners to create a teen space. She keeps the spirit of innovation alive among the Lenox community and cares deeply about those who are a part of her programs. “Katie has brought new life to our youth department,” says Amy Lafave, Lenox Library director. “She has established literally her own section in the library. She has a dynamic presence beloved by our youth in our town, which is what you want to see as a youth librarian.”
Heather Williams serves as the Berkshire Workforce Board youth director and the Jobs4Youth campaign head, which funds a northern Berkshire first job program, generating more than $100,000. She is an active member of the Berkshire Compact for Education, Pittsfield’s Positive Youth Development Committee, and she leads the Berkshire Youth Council, offering teacher externships and federal youth workforce opportunities for the community. She is regarded as a catalyst for youth initiative and a force behind bettering the Berkshires as a place to work and play.
Susan Wissler, the executive director of The Mount, helped raise funds when the property was facing foreclosure in the mid-2000s and has not stopped enlivening it since, hosting events with over 40 local organizations and engaging the community with programs such as Music After Hours. She gives illuminating talks about Edith Wharton, and chairman of the board, Dan Kasper, credits Susan with “pioneering our strategy of using high quality programming to spur attendance and repeat visits, resulting in a growth in annual visitors to over 50,000 last year.”
Chief Jason Wood was appointed chief of police in May, after 18 years of moving up in the ranks in the department. Jason was a facilitator for the Northern Berkshire ROPES Program (Respecting Other People Encouraging Self-Esteem) from 2002 to 2016, and he is a member of the Northern Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee. Dedicated to improving the department’s community presence, Jason helped organize the Pops Care 5k road race, held in North Adams in 2016.
Lanny Zuckerman is a Pittsfield-based attorney with a general civil practice, specializing in real estate and bankruptcy, as well as wills and probate. Lanny is on the board of trustees of his synagogue, Temple Anshe Amunim, and was recently named member of the year, and just last year, as a board member of the Elizabeth Freeman Center in Pittsfield, which provides leadership and services to address domestic and sexual violence in Berkshire County. He was a vital part of the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” fundraiser in downtown Pittsfield, raising over $1,000 for the center and sparking greater awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault.