For 15 years now, BusinessWest has been recognizing the work of individuals, groups, businesses, and institutions through its Difference Makers program, with one goal in mind: to show the many ways one can, in fact, make a difference within their community.
The stories below convey a desire to help others, go above and well beyond, and set the bar higher when it comes to what people can accomplish when they work together. That’s true whether we’re talking about Steve and Jean Graham, owners of Toner Plastics, or Claudia Pazmany and Gabrielle Gould, dynamic leaders in Amherst. Or Gary Rome, the charismatic local auto dealer recently named TIME magazine’s Dealer of the Year. Or Nate Costa, whose hockey team, the Springfield Thunderbirds, and his staff working behind the scenes are changing the dynamic in downtown Springfield and beyond. Or the Springfield Ballers, a nonprofit helping to get young people in the game.
BusinessWest has long recognized the contributions of women within the business community and created the Women of Impact awards four years ago to further honor women who have the authority and power to move the needle in their business, are respected for accomplishments within their industries, give back to the community, and are sought out as respected advisors and mentors within their field of influence.
The eight stories below demonstrate that idea many times over. They detail not only what these women do for a living, but what they’ve done with their lives — specifically, how they’ve become innovators in their fields, leaders within the community, and, most importantly, inspirations to all those around them. The class of 2022 features:
Call it a trend. What it means … well, we don’t really know, but it’s there.
When BusinessWest launched its 40 Under Forty in 2007 to honor young professionals in Western Mass. — not only for their career achievements, but for their service to the community — that first class featured far more men than women.
In recent years, the opposite has been true. Indeed, in 2021, there were 26 women and 14 men. This year? The pendulum has swung even further, with 28 women in the Class of 2022 and 12 men.
Again, we don’t really know what that means. What we do know is that beyond this bit of statistical intrigue, this class of honorees is like the 15 that came before it, in that it is diverse, in every way imaginable — ethnically, geographically, and professionally.
Indeed, the members of this class took a number of paths to this honor. Many are professionals, but there are also several entrepreneurs. There are nonprofit managers, college administrators, and a few public servants as well.
Each story is uniquely different, but there are, as always, some common denominators, including excellence within one’s profession, a commitment to giving back to the community, dedication to family and work/life balance, and a focus on how they can make this region better for all those who live and work here.
The judges for this year’s program — spotlighted below — reviewed more than 120 nominations, a number that speaks to the continued vibrancy of this program and the dedication of the region’s rising stars.
The class of 2022 will be celebrated on Thursday, June 16 at the annual 40 Under Forty Gala at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke. That gala will also feature the announcement of the winner of the eighth annual Alumni Achievement Award, a recognition program that salutes the 40 Under Forty honoree who has most impressively added to their accomplishments in the workplace and within the community, as chosen by a panel of judges.
Xiomara Albán DeLobato, a member of the 40 Under Forty class of 2021, currently serves as chief of staff for the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council, where she facilitates the growth and development of the regional economy by encouraging, influencing, and sustaining capital investment and quality job growth. She has dedicated her career and community involvement in serving as an active change agent and advocate for equitable access to economic and academic opportunities in the region and beyond.
Madeline Landrau, one of BusinessWest’s Women of Impact in 2021, works on MassMutual’s Community Responsibility team as a Program Engagement Manager. She oversees MassMutual’s Home Office Giving portfolio and associated relationship management, working with nonprofit organizations primarily in MassMutual’s home office community of Springfield. She’s the lead for LifeBridgeSM, MassMutual’s program that offers free life insurance coverage to eligible parents for the benefit of their children’s education. Landrau mentors young Latinas, providing informal mentoring and coaching, guiding them to make sound decisions, develop socially and enhance their educational skills.
Ryan McCollum, a 40 Under 40 winner in 2012, is the owner of RMC Strategies, which provides full service political consulting to candidates, elected officials, nonprofits and for-profit institutions. A founder of YPS of Greater Springfield, he is on several area boards, including 16 Lyrics, Suit Up Springfield, Square One, Healing Racism Institute, ROCA, NCCJ, and the marketing committee of the Springfield Museums. He sat on Longmeadow’s Coalition for Racial Justice Task Force, and also serves on the Rian Immigrant Center, which helps immigrants assimilate to our country.
Chad Moir, president and CEO of DopaFit Parkinson’s Movement Center in Easthampton, was honored by BusinessWest with both its 40 Under Forty and Difference Maker awards in 2021. A graduate of American International College and its Public Health program, Moir created DopaFit in 2015. The company uses exercise prograns to help people stop or slow down the progression of Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative disorder that increasingly robs the body of dopamine, which is released during exercise.
Amy Roberts, executive vice president and chief Human Resources officer at PeoplesBank, has more than 18 years of experience working with business leaders to develop and implement people-management and talent-development strategies. An active member of the community, she has served on many boards including the United Way of Hampshire County, Leadership Pioneer Valley and CHD. She is a reader for the Link to Libraries program and serves on the Service Above Self Annual Luncheon Committee for the Springfield Rotary and Basketball Hall of Fame.
Alumni Achievement Award Judging Underway
When BusinessWest launched its 40 Under Forty program in 2007, it did so to identify rising stars across our region — individuals who were excelling in business and through involvement within the community — and celebrate their accomplishments.
In 2015, BusinessWest announced a new award, one that builds on the foundation upon which 40 Under Forty was created. It’s called the Alumni Achievement Award. As the name suggests, it is presented to the 40 Under Forty honoree who, in the eyes of an independent panel of judges, has most impressively continued and built upon his or her track record of accomplishment.
Past winners include: 2021: Anthony Gulluni, Hampden County district attorney (40 Under Forty class of 2015); 2020: Carla Cosenzi, president, TommyCar Auto Group (class of 2012), and Peter DePergola, director of Clinical Ethics, Baystate Health (class of 2015); 2019: Cinda Jones, president, W.D. Cowls Inc. (class of 2007); 2018: Samalid Hogan, regional director, Massachusetts Small Business Development Center (class of 2013); 2017: Scott Foster, attorney, Bulkley Richardson (class of 2011), and Nicole Griffin, owner, ManeHire (class of 2014); 2016: Dr. Jonathan Bayuk, president, Allergy & Immunology Associates of New England (class of 2008); 2015: Delcie Bean, president, Paragus Strategic IT (class of 2008).
This year’s nominees are currently being weighed by three independent judges, including last year’s honorees. They are:
Anthony Gulluni was sworn into office as Hampden District Attorney in January 2015 and is currently serving his second four-year term. He earned both his bachelor’s degree (2003) and juris doctorate (2007) from Western New England University. As D.A., he has promoted his vision of safer communities by innovative and significant investment in community building and outreach, crime prevention and education, and by focusing efforts on the smart prosecution of violent offenders. The Hampden D.A.’s Office has engaged with many community-based organizations, including Roca, the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley, and the YWCA to broaden its reach and provide equitable services to all communities in need.
Keith Ledoux is vice president, Commercial Line of Business and Business Development at Health New England, responsible for driving commercial sales, marketing, and business development. He has more than 25 years of experience in the insurance industry, and has a background in sales, healthcare information technology, and strategy development. Previously, he held leadership roles with MiHealth, Tufts Health Plan, Fallon Health, Minuteman Health, and Constitution Health. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Worcester State University and an MBA from Purdue in Health Care Adminsitration. He also completed the AHIP Executive Leadership Program at Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management.
Kimberly Williams is vice president of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for Stanley Black & Decker. She provides the center of excellence for the Stanley Black & Decker global DE&I community through the development and implementation of best practices, knowledge management, leadership development, and metrics that can be deployed by the local talent and affinity teams within each region. With more than 25 years of HR experience, she has supported and led DE&I initiatives in several organizations across industries, including, investment banking, health care, nonprofit, and aerospace manufacturing. She received her MBA in Human Resource Management from Syracuse University and her bachelor of Arts degree from American University.
For 14 years now, BusinessWest has been recognizing the work of individuals, groups, businesses, and institutions through its Difference Makers program, with one goal in mind: to show the many ways one can, in fact, make a difference within their community. Their stories are sure to enlighten and also inspire others to find their own ways to make a difference.
Tickets cost $75 and can be ordered at businesswest.com. The sponsors for this year’s program are Burkhart Pizzanelli, the New England Farm Workers’ Council, the Royal Law Firm, TommyCar Auto Group, and Westfield Bank
When BusinessWest launched a program in 2007 to honor young professionals in Western Mass. — not only for their career achievements, but for their service to the community — there was little concern the initial flow of nominations might slow to a trickle years later.
We were right. In fact, 40 Under Forty has become such a coveted honor in the region’s business community that the flow has turned into an annual flood, with almost 200 unique nominations arriving this year — a near-record — making the task of five independent judges tougher than ever.
But it was also an inspiring task, as these nominations testified to the continued vibrancy and dedication of the region’s young professionals, even during a year that has been unusual at the best of times and, for many industries, crushing during the worst.
As usual, the honorees — 26 women and 14 men — hail from a host of different industries, from law to engineering; from education to healthcare; from energy to media, just to name a few. But there are, as always, some common denominators, including excellence within one’s profession, a commitment to giving back to the community, dedication to family and work/life balance, and a focus on what else they do in each of those realms.
The class of 2021 will be celebrated on Thursday, Sept. 23 at the annual 40 Under Forty Gala at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke. That gala will also feature the announcement of the winner of the seventh annual Alumni Achievement Award, a recognition program that salutes the 40 Under Forty honoree who has most impressively added to their accomplishments in the workplace and within the community, as chosen by a panel of judges.
When BusinessWest launched its 40 Under Forty program in 2007, it did so to identify rising stars across our region – individuals who were excelling in business and through involvement within the community –and celebrate their accomplishments. In 2015, BusinessWest announced a new award, one that builds on the foundation upon which 40 Under Forty was created. It’s called the Alumni Achievement Award (formerly the Continued Excellence Award). as the name suggests, will be presented to the 40 Under Forty honoree who, in the eyes of an independent panel of judges, has most impressively continued and built upon their track record of accomplishment.
This year’s nominations are CLOSED. Nominate next year’s Alumni Achievement Award recipient HERE.
Congratulations to the Class of 2021 Difference Makers! Thank you to our sponsors and everyone who helped to make this event possible. We appreciate you all!
Thank you to everyone who participated in the #EverydayDifferenceMakers social media campaign. We had an overwhelming number of submissions and are extremely excited to share the good work being done in #the413 during our Difference Makers event!
Since BusinessWest and its sister publication, Healthcare News, launched the new recognition program known as Healthcare Heroes in 2017, the initiative has more than succeeded in its quest to identify true leaders — not to mention inspiring stories — within this region’s large and very important healthcare sector.
The award was created to recognize those whose contributions to the health and well-being of this region, while known to some, needed to become known to all. And this is certainly true in this year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several months ago, the decision makers at the two publications knew that, during this very difficult time, our healthcare community was challenged as perhaps never before, and had to summon its collective strength, imagination, and dedication to clear a seemingly endless list of hurdles and continue to provide needed services to the residents of this region.
We knew that a sector already heavily populated with heroes would have even more individuals worthy of that term. So we invited people to nominate these heroes for the award we created, and the judges tasked with scoring them were impressed and, in some ways, overwhelmed by the stories generated by these nominations.
Overall, everyone who was nominated this year is a hero, but in the minds of our judges, 10 of these stories stood out among the others. The Healthcare Heroes for 2020 are:
Harry Dumay is president of Elms College in Chicopee. Prior to becoming the 11th president of Elms in 2017, Dumay was senior vice president for Finance and chief financial officer for Saint Anselm College from 2012 to 2017. He formerly served as chief financial officer and associate dean at Harvard University’s Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, associate dean at Boston College’s Graduate School of Social Work, and director of Finance for Boston University’s School of Engineering.
Cristina Huebner Torres
Cristina Huebner Torres is director of Research and Wellness at Caring Health Center in Springfield and a winner of the Healthcare Heroes award in 2019 in the category ‘Innovation in Healthcare.’ With more than 15 years of experience in public-health research, her work is guided by theoretical frameworks from social epidemiology and medical anthropology focused primarily on social determinants of health, health disparities, and health equity as they shape chronic illness prevention and management among ethnically diverse, urban, low-income populations.
Kathy Wilson is the retired president and CEO of Behavioral Health Network (BHN) and winner of the Healthcare Heroes award in 2019 in the category of ‘Lifetime Achievement.’ She served in her role at BHN for more than 30 years, growing it into a $115 million network of behavioral-health programs with more than 2,000 locations and more than 40 locations, ranging from detox centers and step-down facilities to 24-hour crisis-intervention centers and developmental- and intellectual-disability services.
That phrase will forever have special meaning at colleges, high schools, and even grammar schools across this country. Indeed, 2020 has been a different year in every way imaginable.
And the same is true of BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty class of rising stars. When the JUDGES received their six-inch-thick packets of nominations — which detailed the credentials of more than 200 candidates — in February, COVID-19 hadn’t yet arrived in Western Mass. By the time the scores were tabulated and the winners were sent their letters of congratulations, the world had changed in a profound way.
These changes are reflected in this special edition of BusinessWest, and also in the scheduling of the gala to celebrate this year’s class. Traditionally slated for late June, it is now scheduled to be held Oct. 8 with location TBD.
As for this section, the biggest difference is the photographs. In past years, they were taken in the studio of photographer Leah Martin. With social-distancing guidelines in place and non-essential businesses (like photo studios) closed, that wasn’t possible.
So we improvised. Many members of the class of 2020 took their own photos, while Martin took to the road and photographed several honorees on their front porches and in their backyards — from a safe distance. Collectively, these photos speak not only to how different these times are, but to how people have used their imaginations and creativity to cope.
Overall, while the class of 2020 has had, and will continue to have, a different experience than those who preceded it, it is like those other classes in how it reflects the high levels of young talent now emerging in this region. And it paints an impressive picture of leadership for decades to come.
Back in late 2008, BusinessWest conceived a new recognition program.
It was called Difference Makers because, well, that’s the best way to describe those who would be honored. No matter what their career or field or passion — and, over the years, they have been myriad — the one common thread would be making a difference in the community.
Our goal was, and remains, to show the many ways in which an individual or group can make a difference, and suffice to say this goal has been met — as you’ll find out, once again, as you read the stories generated by the 12th such class of honorees.
The regularly scheduled gathering to honor our Difference Makers had to be post-poned because of the pandemic and ongoing bans on large gatherings.
But BusinessWest is now ready to move forward with an exciting virtual-hybrid event that will enable the region to celebrate this year’s honorees — and in settings that will comply with the state’s many guidelines for gatherings in the COVID-19 era.
Our 2020 Difference Makers event will take place on Thursday, Sept. 24, 4 p.m.-5:30 p.m. and will honor the large and distinguished Difference Makers class of 2020. This will be a ‘virtual-hybrid’ event, with the honorees and sponsors to gather at the Upper Vista at the Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House in Holyoke — 40 are allowed under the current guidelines — with the more than 300 other guests able to take the award program proceedings virtually. Guests who have purchased tickets to the original March event will have private access to view the virtual program.
The Difference Makers program for 2020 is sponsored by Burkhart Pizzanel-li, Mercy Medical Center/Trinity Health Of New England, Royal P.C., and Tom-myCar Auto Group, with nonprofit part-ners MHA Inc., the Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament, and United Way of Pioneer Valley
Healthcare Heroes Class of 2019 to Be Honored on Oct. 17
When BusinessWest and Healthcare News launched Healthcare Heroes in 2017, there was no doubt this was a long-overdue award program in Western Mass. — in fact, we knew the challenge wouldn’t be finding quality nominations, but choosing just a handful to honor each year. Indeed, this year’s judges (see below) carefully studied about 100 different nominees in seven categories to choose the impressive group to be honored at this year’s gala in October.
Collectively, they are innovators and game changers in the region’s rich and vibrant healthcare community, and their stories — told on the following pages — reveal large quantities of energy, imagination, compassion, entrepreneurship, forward thinking, and dedication to the community.
There are eight winners in this third class, with two in the category of Lifetime Achievement, because two candidates were tied with the top score. The Heroes for 2019 are:
• Lifetime Achievement (tie): Katherine Wilson, president and CEO, Behavioral Health Network Inc.; and Frank Robinson, vice president, Public Health, Baystate Health;
Bob Fazzi has spent a lifetime making a difference in healthcare, most notably with Fazzi Associates, the company he started 40 years ago and incorporated in 1995. Its stated mission is to make a real difference in healthcare by strengthening the quality, value, and impact of home care, hospice, and community-based services. Fazzi Associates has been a leader and a pioneer in this sector, developing products and services — including the industry’s first home-health patient-satisfaction services — as well as research to make agencies stronger and better able to serve their patients. For this work, Fazzi was honored as a Healthcare Hero in 2018 in the category of Lifetime Achievement.
Mary Paquette, director of Health Services at American International College, is another 2018 Healthcare Hero, in the category of Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider. AIC is only the latest stop in a 35-year career that has seen her take on a variety of roles, from director of Nursing at Ludlow Hospital to per-diem hospitalist at in the GI Department of the Eastern Connecticut Health Network, to assistant director of Health Services at Western New England University — the job that became the springboard to her post at AIC. Since arriving at AIC 2012, she has turned a moribund health-services facility that few students knew about or ventured to into a thriving, innovative, important campus service.
Alan Popp joined the Mason Wright Foundation as its Chief Executive Officer in 2008. His previous experience includes head of school and CEO at White Mountain School, a college preparatory school; and chief operating officer at Pine River Institute, a residential treatment center. He has also served as a consultant to more than 200 New England nonprofits, many of them providers of services to seniors. He serves on the boards of LeadingAge Massachusetts, Salvation Army Citadel Corps, and OnBoard Inc., and on the Leadership Council of the Alzheimer’s Assoc. of Massachusetts/New Hampshire. He is also a trustee of Antioch University New England and previously served on the campaign cabinet for the United Way of Pioneer Valley.
It was almost a decade ago now when Bill Ward, then the executive director of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, stepped to the podium at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke to accept the first Difference Maker award presented by BusinessWest.
Much has happened since then. Ward retired a few years later, and the REB is now known as the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board. But the Difference Maker award remains a constant — and a symbol of excellence and dedication to improving quality of life in this region.
Since the very beginning, this recognition program has shown conclusively that are a great many ways to make a difference. And the class of 2019, the program’s 11th, makes this even more abundantly clear, as the stories clearly show.
The six members of the class of 2019 were honored on Thursday, March 28 at the Log Cabin. View the Program Guide HERE.
Tony Cignoli is the President of the A. L. Cignoli Company, the public relations, political and governmental affairs company he founded in 1992. The company serves political and corporate clients across America with bases of operation in Boston, Massachusetts, clients’ operations centers, and home base being Springfield, Massachusetts.
A.L. Cignoli Company has built a reputation creating success for both political and corporate clients in challenging situations; taking on tough assignments, from referendum campaigns other firms will not touch to assisting in turning around political and corporate campaigns in trouble. The firm is recognized for a holistic approach to public and governmental affairs solutions, melding Tony and his associate’s contacts and hands-on approach with an understanding of how to utilize modern applications of data mining, polling data and social media.
Tony is a veteran of over 350 political campaigns, including presidential elections in Peru, Prime Minister and Parliamentary campaigns in Italy and many referendums in Massachusetts and throughout New England. He is a frequent commentator and political analyst for newspapers, radio and television news programs.