March 6, 2018
NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) will celebrate its 119th Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 12, beginning at 11 a.m., in the Amsler Campus Center Gymnasium.

This year's Commencement speaker will be aerospace engineer and NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson, who grew up in Pittsfield. The second African American woman to go into space, Wilson will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

In addition, MCLA Executive Vice President Denise Richardello ’77, M.Ed. ’81, and
State Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D-Lenox) will receive honorary Doctor of Public Service degrees. MCLA will also recognize former State Rep. Gailanne M. Cariddi (D-North Adams) with a posthumous Doctor of Public Service degree.

In recognition of their awards, the honorary degree recipients will have books placed in MCLA’s Freel Library in their names.

MCLA President James F. Birge said he is pleased to recognize Wilson, Richardello, Pignatelli, and Cariddi with honorary degrees.

“We are delighted that Stephanie Wilson, Smitty Pignatelli and Denise Richardello will join us at our 119th Commencement. Their examples and achievements will inspire our Class of 2018, especially as our new graduates leave MCLA and go on to forge their own successful careers and lives of meaningful service,” Birge said. “We also are pleased to acknowledge Gailanne M. Cariddi for her many contributions to the Commonwealth, the Berkshires and the North Adams community.”

MCLA Board of Trustees Chair Susan Gold commended those who will be honored.

“We are delighted to welcome Stephanie Wilson as this year’s Commencement speaker at the 2018 ceremony. We also will be pleased to recognize Smitty Pignatelli, a longtime advocate and enthusiastic supporter of the College for many years, as well as Denise Richardello, whose exemplary and steadfast dedication to MCLA has helped to magnify our mission as we serve students from the region, the Commonwealth and beyond,” Gold said. “In addition, we posthumously will honor North Adams native State Rep. Gailanne M. Cariddi, whose resolute public service benefitted the people of this community as she served locally and in the State House.”

Wilson served as the Space Station Integration Branch Chief from 2010 to 2012, and she has also served as a member of the 2009, 2013 and 2017 Astronaut Selection Boards. As a branch chief, she helped to select the last three classes of new astronauts. As a member of the Astronaut Office, she supports the International Space Station Program as a member of the Mission Support Crew branch.

Wilson spent nearly 43 days in space, participating in three shuttle missions. They include the STS-121 in 2006, where she was a mission specialist. She also flew on the STS-120 mission in 2007 that delivered the Harmony connecting module to the International Space Station, and was a mission specialist in 2010 on STS-131.

Selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate in April 1996, after she completed two years of training and evaluation, Wilson served in the Astronaut Office CAPCOM Branch, working in Mission Control as a prime communicator with on-orbit crews. Following her work in Mission Control, Wilson was assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office Shuttle Operations Branch involving the Space Shuttle Main Engines, External Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters.

Wilson worked for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in 1992, where she was a member of the Attitude and Articulation Control Subsystem for the Galileo spacecraft. She also worked for Martin Marietta Astronautics Group in Denver, Colo.

Wilson attended graduate school at the University of Texas, where she earned a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering. She completed a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering science from Harvard University, and has returned to Harvard as a member of the Harvard Board of Overseers. Wilson attended Pittsfield Public Schools, and graduated from Taconic High School.

Her numerous awards include the Johnson Space Center Innovation Group Achievement Award (2013), Johnson Space Center Director Commendation Award (2013), and the NASA Space Flight Medal (2006, 2007, 2010).

Richardello has served as MCLA’s executive vice president since 2013 and is responsible for leadership for a variety of institutional initiatives as well as the planning, direction, and oversight of the enrollment management and external relations division, which includes functions related to student recruitment, financial aid, communications and marketing, and human resources.

Richardello began her career at the College as an admissions counselor upon her 1977 graduation from the College. Throughout the years in working with MCLA’s Office of Admission, she increased efforts to recruit special populations as she helped to build an ethnically and geographically diverse student body. Since joining the College she has served with six College presidents in numerous roles.

Richardello represented MCLA through her service on many boards throughout the Berkshires and in the Commonwealth, including the 1Berkshire board, the North Adams Partnership, Lever Entrepreneurship and Innovation board, Berkshire Regional Employment board, the state Department of Higher Education’s Admissions Advisory Committee, the New England College Board’s Regional council, and the Commonwealth Commitment Advisory Board. She earned both her Master of Education degree and her Bachelor of Arts degree in education from the College. She also attended the State University of New York at Buffalo in the Ph.D. program in higher education. She is a graduate of Drury High School in North Adams, and a recent recipient of the Esther Quinn award, presented to her in recognition of her volunteerism and community service.

Since 2003, Pignatelli has represented the 4th Berkshire District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Currently in his eighth term, he is the House Chairman of the Joint Committee of Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Born and raised in Lenox, Pignatelli graduated from Lenox Memorial High School in              1977. With more than 40 years of public service and 30 years as an elected official, Pignatelli first was elected to the Lenox Planning Board in 1987 and served on that board for five years. In 1992, he was elected to the Select Board, and was elected Chairman on four different occasions, serving until May 2003. Smitty, as he is commonly known to his constituents, also served from 1995-1999 as a Berkshire County Commissioner, which included two years as Chair of the board.

Also involved in many local organizations, Pignatelli is a member of the Berkshire County Deputy Sheriff’s Association; a past board member of the Berkshire County Arc, the board of directors of the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, and the Berkshire County Red Cross; and is a former President of the Lenox Historical Society. He is a 2001 graduate of Babson College School for Financial Studies in Wellesley.

A native of North Adams, Cariddi was serving her fourth term as state representative for the 1st Berkshire District when she passed away in June 2017. In the legislature, she was a member of and served as the Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government; and as Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. In addition, she was a member of the Joint Committee on Transportation.

As an active member for many years with the Berkshire Bike Path Council, Cariddi was instrumental in moving forward bike and pedestrian paths in Northern Berkshire County, including the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail. She also served on the North Adams Public Library Building Committee, and was a longtime member of the North Adams Democratic City Committee. In addition, Cariddi was a board member of Northern Berkshire Community Television, where she featured local news of interest regularly on her shows, the most recent of which was “Something You Should Know.”

Prior to her election to the state legislature, Cariddi served as a North Adams City Councilor for more than 20 years, including as City Council President. Before being elected to public office, Cariddi was the financial manager of her family business, Cariddi Sales Company, for more than 30 years, where she hosted the Annual Santa Fund toy pickups.

Cariddi graduated from Bentley University in Waltham with a bachelor’s degree in business management. She attended North Adams Public Schools, and graduated from Drury High School.

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.

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