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MCLA Announces Speaker, Honorary Degree Recipients for 2022 Commencement

NORTH ADAMS, MASS.—After two years of virtual ceremonies, MCLA is thrilled to honor the Class of 2022 in person, bringing together family, friends, and the campus community, at its 123rd Commencement Exercises on May 14, 2022, at 11 a.m. in the Amsler Campus Center Gymnasium.


The Commencement speaker will be Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos E. Santiago, who is responsible for providing overall direction to public higher education in Massachusetts and helping shape state-level policies that maximize the benefits of higher education to the Commonwealth and its citizens. Santiago will also receive an honorary doctorate from MCLA.


In addition, MCLA will confer honorary doctorates to two other outstanding members of our academic community: former North Adams Mayor and current Berkshire United Way President and CEO Thomas W. Bernard, and outgoing MCLA Trustee Susan Gold, a longtime MCLA trustee and community member who has worked tirelessly to advance the mission of the College and the quality of life in Berkshire County.


“We have worked hard to keep MCLA safe and follow public health guidelines since the pandemic began in 2020,” said MCLA President James F. Birge, “And now, a moment I have been hoping for since then will finally happen: an in-person celebration for members of the graduating class of 2022, who have worked so hard to finish their degrees in a time of so much upheaval. I cannot wait to see this group of motivated, dedicated Trailblazers cross that stage.”


For more information about MCLA’s Commencement ceremony, visit


Tom Bernard 

A North Adams native and two-term North Adams mayor who served from 2018-2021, Tom Bernard has a deep and longstanding connection and commitment to North Adams, and especially to MCLA. Bernard is a former MCLA administrator who worked as Executive Assistant to the President and Clerk of the MCLA Board of Trustees, as well as in roles with the Administration & Finance and Advancement teams. After MCLA, Bernard served as director of special projects at Smith College. He previously was a development officer at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) and served in various volunteer roles in North Adams and at the regional and state levels. In his current role as President and CEO of Berkshire United Way, Bernard leads an organization passionately committed to philanthropy and service; to engaging individuals and organizations in the shared mission of building and strengthening community; and to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging as an organizational commitment and as a charge central to BUW’s role as a community partner and convener. The son of North Adams Public Schools teachers each of whom was educated at MCLA/NASC, Bernard is a graduate of Drury High School, Williams College, and Westfield State University.


Susan Gold 

Susan Gold is an active member of the MCLA community. She is a native of Adams, Mass., graduating from Adams Memorial High School, and earned her B.A. from American University. She was a member of the MCLA Board of Trustees from 2010-2021, a Foundation corporator since 1989, and a former member of the Board of Directors, having served from 1992-2010. Gold served as co-chair of MCLA’s 2016 Presidential Search Committee and has also served as co-chair of the Foundation Board’s ad-hoc Fundraising Committee. Gold is an active community volunteer with experience and expertise in development and fundraising. She has worked with a number of organizations in Berkshire County including Northern Berkshire Health Systems, the REACH Community Health Foundation, and Images Cinema. She formerly sat on the boards of the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation, BFAIR, Images Cinema, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA). Gold also sits on MASS MoCA’s Director’s Advisory Council. Susan Gold is generous and selfless in her giving and fundraising and she is an invaluable member of our community.


Carlos E. Santiago 

Carlos E. Santiago is Commissioner of Higher Education for Massachusetts, appointed to thisposition by the Board of Higher Education (BHE) in July 2015. Working with the BHE, Dr. Santiago is responsible for providing overall direction to public higher education in Massachusetts and helping shape state-level policies that maximize the benefits of higher education to the Commonwealth and its citizens. On October 1, 2019, Santiago was named the chair of the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) Executive Committee. The Commissioner has over 30 years of experience in public higher education, including as  Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and chief operating officer at the University at Albany, (SUNY). He was a professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin Madison (UWM) and at SUNY-Albany and holds a Ph.D. in economics from Cornell University. Santiago is also the author or co-author of six books and has published dozens of articles and book reviews, of which many focus on economic development and the changing socioeconomic status of Latinos in the United States. On two separate occasions, in 1996 and 2011, Santiago has been named one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the United States by Hispanic Business magazine. 


About MCLA:
At MCLA, we’re here for all — and focused on each — of our students. Classes are taught by educators who care deeply about teaching, and about seeing their students thrive on every level of their lives. In nearly every way possible, the experience at MCLA is designed to elevate our students as individuals, as leaders, communicators, fully empowered to make their impressions on the world. In addition to our 127-year commitment to public education, we have fortified our commitment to equitable academic excellence. For nine of the last 11 years, MCLA has been named a Top Ten College by U.S. News and World Report. MCLA also appears on the organization’s list of top National Public Liberal Arts Colleges. Since the list was created, MCLA has risen to #21 as a Top Performer on Social Mobility and ranks first among all Massachusetts schools, which measures how well schools graduate students who receive Federal Pell Grants.

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