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Originally scheduled for last week and postponed due to inclement weather, BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty celebration is now slated to take place over two days, Oct. 13 and 14 at the Upper Vista at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke.

The hybrid event will still take place at four ‘mini-events’ over two days, allowing 10 honorees to celebrate in person at each event. For those who can’t join us in person, BusinessWest has created a livestream option so friends and family can cheer on the class of 2020 from the safety and comfort of their home. A two-night ‘virtual access pass’ allows participants to see all 40 of this year’s honorees accept their awards on Oct. 13 and 14. To purchase your pass, visit: https://businesswest.com/blog/40-under-forty-two-night-celebration-postponed-to-oct-13-14/

The 40 Under Forty program for 2020 is sponsored by PeoplesBank and Health New England (presenting sponsors); Comcast Business, Isenberg School of Management, and Mercedes-Benz of Springfield (sponsors); the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield (partner); and WWLP 22 News/CW Springfield (exclusive media sponsor).

The Class of 2019

Project Planner, Tighe & Bond; Age 27
Education: UMass Amherst (BS, MRP)

Sarah Adams

Sarah Adams

What did you want to be when you grew up? Definitely not a planner! I’ve always loved animals, so I wanted to be a veterinarian. I didn’t know what planning was until I got to college, but I immediately connected with the idea that the built environment should balance impacts to economy, environment, and social justice. I get to do work every day that helps animals (and humans) on a more macro scale by protecting important habitats and reducing GHG emissions.

How do you define success? One of my favorite quotes is “what matters most is how well you walk through the fire.” The most successful people I know can meet adversity head-on with no forfeiture of passion or energy.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? David Bowie. I grew up listening to Bowie with my dad, and I’ve always been fascinated by how incomparably influential he was in music, fashion, and art in general. Bowie is a testament to the virtues of strangeness, and I’d like to tell him how grateful I am for the mark he left on the world. Although, instead of lunch, I’d rather take advantage of his discerning yet adventurous eye for style and go shopping!

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Matilda is an embodiment of the authority that girls have to control their education, and a reminder that knowledge truly is a superpower. Books and characters like Matilda taught me, when I was a little girl, that I should crave knowledge. Now, as an adult, I try to teach that message to my Girls on the Run team and remind students at NEWIEE (New England Women in Energy and the Environment) on Campus events that their education doesn’t stop when they graduate.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? I try to find time every day to run, stretch, or get outside with my dogs. My workouts are often the only time I fully give my attention to myself and how I’m feeling, and I find that I feel more focused in the afternoon on the days I get out for a few miles at lunch. I also feel my strongest when I’m running, so I try to carry that confidence into my next meeting or whatever else I have going on that day.

 

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Senior Vice President, PeoplesBank; Age 38
Education: Westfield State University (BS), Western New England University (MBA)

Aleda Amistadi

Aleda Amistadi

How do you define success? Being proud of my achievements, both personally and professionally, and being able to learn something about myself when there are shortcomings. In my professional life, success can create lasting change for our customers, our associates, and our communities, which motivates me every day.

What are you passionate about? First, I am passionate about being a mom to my 5-year-old daughter, who is incredibly smart and makes me laugh every day, even if she doesn’t intend to. She keeps me grounded and brings me back to reality when I need it the most. I am also passionate about my work, and I feel incredibly blessed to love what I do every day. I am so fortunate to have a career in which I can constantly grow and challenge myself on many levels.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? I am very lucky to have a solid support network of family, close friends, and constructive co-workers. They help guide me when I need it, correct my path when I’m going in a direction that isn’t true to who I am, and offer amazing and honest guidance when I ask — or even sometimes when I don’t ask. I know it all comes from a place of love and respect, and together, they make a strong (and often comical) advisory group.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? I wake up every morning and set out to do my best. If I look back on the day and can think of one or more accomplishments — personally or professionally — that I put my heart into, then I know I have had a good day.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? As a huge Duke basketball fan, I would love to have lunch with Mike Krzyzewski. I would love to ask Coach K why he feels he has been successful in his field and how he has been able to command respect from his players, fans, and peers, all from a variety of backgrounds and talents. His ability to lead and be a role model in such a diverse environment is inspiring.

What actress would play you in a movie about your life? Gal Gadot, because my daughter adores Wonder Woman, and I would get cool parent points if Wonder Woman pretended to be mommy.

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Founder and Director, Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop; Age 33
Education: Bard College (BA), the New School (MFA)

Joy Baglio

Joy Baglio

What did you want to be when you grew up? I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My sister and I grew up surrounded by the most magical collection of children’s books, all curated and read to us on a daily basis by my mother. Before I could write, I’d dictate stories to her, and later on I’d make my own ‘books’ with illustrations. One was called “Horse of the Mountains,” about a horse who goes rogue and forms a community of woodland animals.

How do you define success? My definition is a bit of a contradiction. I’m working on finishing a novel and short-story collection and have big plans for both, yet I also try to steer myself away from the world’s definition of success — however loud. I think real success — regardless of what concrete and external goals we may and should have — is about living in a way that’s truest to ourselves: discovering what that is, and learning to hear and trust that inner guidance.

What are you passionate about? Writing. Stories. Studying and teaching craft. Sentences that feel alive. Voice-driven fiction. Speculative fiction. Creating literary community. Animals. Birds. Veganism. Adventure.

Whom do you look up to, and why? As both a writer and literary entrepreneur, I’m inspired by authors who simultaneously write while also creating literary community. My former mentor, Rebecca Makkai, is inspirational as an award-winning author, writing instructor, and director of Chicago’s StoryStudio. Julia Fierro of Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop — a wonderful writer, instructor, and savvy business leader — is also someone I admire.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? One of my favorite (deceased) writers, Angela Carter, who wrote deliciously ornate fabulist stories and fairytale retellings about beasts and vampire countesses in prose that feels electric.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? Throughout my journey as a writer, I’ve studied with some amazing authors: Aimee Bender, Rebecca Makkai, Mary Gaitskill, Brad Morrow, Julia Fierro, Caitlin Horrocks, Laura Van Den Berg, and Mary Caponegro, just to name a few. Most writers’ paths are filled with all kinds of discouragements, rejections, and loneliness, and having mentors who helped me focus on the work itself — how I could best develop both concrete craft skills and a trust in my own creativity and vision — has been life-changing. I feel immensely grateful for their generosity and brilliance.

 

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Director of Bands, Springfield High School of Science and Technology; Age 36
Education: UMass Amherst (BM, MM)

Gary Bernice

Gary Bernice

How do you define success? “Seek to serve, not to be served” is our SciTech Band commandment. My students and I post this motto on the entrance of our classroom door, write it on our chalkboard, print it on our band handbooks, embroider it on our band jackets, and flash it on our band website. Most importantly, we try to live out this commandment as a band family. We define true success as an action, not a status — the commitment to consistently and willingly put the needs of other people before ourselves in all that we do.

With 500 students, we are the largest band in the state of Massachusetts. Despite the challenges of an urban school district like ours, and the fact that 99% of our students have never played an instrument before, they are still able to inspire audiences throughout the region. Our students are three times more likely to stay in school and were the recipients of the Massachusetts Commonwealth Award, the state’s highest honor given for achievement in the arts. Our band even received a personal letter from President Obama praising them for dreaming big dreams and improving our community.

Most people would describe these accomplishments as our success story. However, our real success story is about who we are and who we strive to be — a band family that serves each other and our school, shares the joy of music with our city, cares for the people around us, takes a stand for justice, and empowers students to become leaders and make a lasting difference in our community.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Never give up and always believe in my students.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? Jesus. I would love to hear his guidance in person. As of 2019, deaths from alcohol, drugs, and suicide — so-called ‘deaths of despair’ — are destroying people and contributing to our nation’s declining life expectancy. As a teacher, I see these symptoms of despair and hopelessness every day in my classroom. It breaks my heart to see people (especially my students) believe they are not loved or valued. I know that Jesus, in his compassion, would share some insightful words to give me strength and encouragement as I try to build up the people around me.

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Construction Manager and Healthy Homes Assessor, Revitalize CDC; Owner, K&M Enterprises; Age 29
Education: Springfield College (BS)

Myles Callender

Myles Callender

What did you want to be when you grew up? I know it’s one of the classic cliché answers, but I wanted to be a firefighter when I grew up. But not just any firefighter — the one who steered the back of the rig. I know it’s an outdated position nowadays with modern fire trucks, but I remember being a kid and seeing that guy back there in his own little booth steering the truck, and I really looked forward to having that job one day. It also probably helped that the elementary school I attended had firemen visit every year and give us a tour of their fire engines and equipment.

How do you define success? The concept of success is relative, so for me, it’s being content. It’s knowing that my hard work has led to the happiness of myself and my family. I also feel that success is being able to contribute to society in a way that helps others who may be less fortunate attain their goals and reach what they consider to be success.

Whom do you look up to, and why? For me, it’s my family. My parents did an awesome job of instilling core values and being a crucial example of what hard work can lead to. Also, all of my brothers are successful in their respective fields, so it is quite easy to look up to them and be inspired by what they do.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Is there any other answer besides Denzel Washington?

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? I actually don’t set goals at the start of my day. The goals I set for myself tend to come the night before. I often go through my day completing each goal I set for myself the previous night. I understand there are some goals that may rely upon external forces to be completed; however, I always seek to ensure that whatever goals are solely dependent upon myself are fully achieved before the end of the day. Then, usually on my drive home or just before I go to sleep, I’ll think of everything I want to accomplish the next day, then wake up and do it all over again.

 

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Assistant Provost for Academic Programs, Online Education, UMass Amherst; Age 39
Education: UMass Amherst (BA, MBA)

Nicole Carlson

Nicole Carlson

What did you want to be when you grew up? A flight attendant. I remember pronouncing stewardess as ‘hewardess’ when I was young. I think it was because I wanted to travel. Ironically, I haven’t traveled much, but hope to in my retirement, only now I’d rather take an RV across the country and make stops along the way and camp outside.

What three words best describe you? Trustworthy, respectful, adaptable.

What are you passionate about? Learning. Every day is an opportunity for learning. Every interaction, experience, and conversation we have is an opportunity for learning.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Reflection. I remember to reflect on who I am and what I’ve done. We are not perfect, and I am not perfect, as a mother, wife, employee, daughter, friend, or sister. Reflection allows us to recognize our deficiencies, but reflection also helps us realize and be proud of what we have overcome and accomplished.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Not only because it is my favorite movie, but because Dorothy, while initially seen as meek, is actually strong, direct, and ready to take on a challenge with everything she’s got. She is also generous and loyal to her friends and family.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? It is hard to pick just one. I would want to have lunch with each of my grandparents and my husband’s grandparents. I want to hear about their lives as young children, the struggles our families had to overcome, the successes they achieved — all the things that make up our family history and our families today. I would then tell these stories to my son.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? “She had a calm confidence, worked hard, but didn’t take work too seriously. She was a problem solver, a good listener, dependable, realistic about what to expect, and had an ‘it’s all going to be fine’ mentality.”

How do you define success? By trying. It doesn’t matter whether the outcome is positive or not, the fact that you tried is a success. We learn more from our failures than our successes.

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Senior Vice President for Human Resources and Chief of Staff, American International College; Age 39
Education: Mount Holyoke College (BA), University of West Florida (MA)

Nicolle Cestero

Nicolle Cestero

What did you want to be when you grew up? A teacher. While in college, I worked two jobs, as a nanny and in the offices of a nonprofit organization. Both of these experiences made me realize my skill set was more focused on organization and coordination. Of course, as my career developed, I was able to add to this base skill set in other ways.

What three words best describe you? High emotional intelligence.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Stay positive, focus on what’s really important, and work hard. It’s easy to let the day-to-day minutiae bring you down or have the focus shift to the non-essentials. At the end of the day, your outlook on life and your focus can really make a difference. When I’m contemplating an issue or problem, I try to find a silver lining around it while looking for a solution. That helps me and those around me move forward in a more positive manner. Derek Jeter said, “there may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.” If I start each day staying positive, focusing on what’s important, and working hard, then I feel a sense of accomplishment at day’s end despite the challenges that may have occurred throughout the day.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? Wonder Woman, for her intelligence, inner strength, confidence, lack of ego, sense of right and wrong, strong work ethic, and kindness.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? This question intrigued me, so I asked a few colleagues. Highlights included: “She laughed easily. She had an instinctive sense for right, wrong, and how to treat people. She could talk with anyone. She had a self-assurance far beyond her years. She had all the soft and hard skills — she read people well, developed and grew them, worked well with others, could think big, and could also manage details. She was organized, managed time well, and held people and herself accountable. She was someone you wanted on your team because she would ensure the work got done, but also that everyone had fun doing it. She is a spirit animal. She likes to eat. She is raising her children to be strong and courageous and to treat people properly.”

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Senior Engineer, Tighe & Bond Inc.; Age 39
Education: UMass Amherst (BS)

Jean Christy

Jean Christy

What did you want to be when you grew up? An architect — so, not too far off. I have always been a very technical person with a tendency toward drawing and design, and math and science always came easy to me. I started my college career in architecture, but quickly changed to civil engineering. It’s been a rewarding field for me; I have the opportunity to explore my creativity in design work while having the tried and true engineering principles and practices as my foundation.

What are you passionate about? Type 1 diabetes awareness and our nonprofit, Three’s Company T1D Support. Having three children with type 1 diabetes is a daily challenge. The kids feel ostracized, as they have different needs than their peers, and we often hear them say they hate diabetes (we all do!). Our goal is to allow kids with type 1 diabetes feel equal and not labeled ‘the diabetic kid.’ While we are still in our infancy, our mission is to assist with sending kids to diabetes camp and raising awareness in local sports programs so diabetes is less of an identifier. The type 1 diabetes population is ever-growing, and, while it is a serious disease with potential deadly repercussions, it is manageable with education.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? This may sound silly, but it’s Hermione Granger. We’re big Harry Potter fans in our house, and even though she’s young when we meet her, we can imagine that she becomes a strong-willed and motivated woman who is confident in her abilities but understands there are times when you need help from your friends. She’s an advocate for those without a voice or social status to elevate a cause. She’s a perfectionist and a pleaser, but fearless in the face of adversity when forced to make a choice between right and wrong.

Whom do you look up to, and why? It’s a pretty standard answer, but my parents. It’s because of them I have my work ethic and integrity. I saw my parents balance careers, higher education, community involvement, and active children. I learn by example, and both my parents, and their parents before them, set excellent examples for me, which I am trying to pass on to my children.

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Existing Business Sales Manager, Health New England; Age 37
Education: Florida Southern College (BS)

Liane Comeau

Liane Comeau

What did you want to be when you grew up? A detective, to follow in my father’s footsteps.

How do you define success? To persevere, no matter how difficult the hurdle, and leave a dent in the universe.

What three words best describe you? Determined, loyal, infectious.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To smile, listen, treat people with respect, and be as positive and present as often as possible.

What are you passionate about? Finding the good, uplifting others, and trying my best to make a difference. My goal in life is to open a grief relief and wellness center to help families and friends who are grieving, with a focus on those who have lost a loved one to drug addiction or overdose.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My brother, because I’d do anything to hear his laugh one more time.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? That I brought laughter to the workplace, brought realness to each situation, and tried to lead by example, keeping focus on what was in my control and practicing perspective.

What actress would play you in a movie about your life? Jennifer Lawrence.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? My immediate family members all serve as mentors to me. Collectively, we have been through more than any family should have to bear, but we stand by each other, lift each other up, and somehow find a way to continue to work hard, play hard, laugh with each other, and support one another at a level most may not even understand. They are my foundation; they ground me and allow me to be the best version of me I can be.

 

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

General Manager, MGM Springfield; Age 38
Education: Howard University (BBA)

Alex Dixon

Alex Dixon

What did you want to be when you grew up? Governor of Nevada, an Alvin Ailey dancer, or running back for the Washington Redskins.

How do you define success? Success is defined by how hard you laugh, cry, and dance in celebration of the challenges you choose to tackle.

What three words best describe you? Passionate, thoughtful, humble.

What are you passionate about? Helping people achieve their dreams.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? Frederick Douglass literally changed the world and was a driving force for the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? Definitely some sort of mashup of Eddie Murphy in Boomerang, Pierce Brosnan in The Thomas Crown Affair, and Al Bundy in Married … with Children. Life is lived somewhere in between your aspirations and reality.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Chadwick Boseman of Black Panther fame and I were contemporaries at Howard University. Wakanda forever! Halle Berry would play my wife, Yindra.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? My father, Frank Dixon, has been and continues to be my best mentor in life. From an early age, Dad sparked an intellectual curiosity within me that has raged ever since. My parents have provided a sense of stability that has propelled me to take risks throughout my personal and professional life.

Whom do you look up to, and why? Vernon Jordan is an iconic business, government-affairs, and civil-rights professional. He plays behind the scenes and has opened doors for an untold number of young professionals to this day.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Carpe diem until I hit snooze again.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? “Here lies a good and decent man.”

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Project Manager, Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program; Practice Manager, Division of Geriatrics & Palliative Care, Baystate Health; Age 33
Education: STCC (AS), UMass Isenberg School of Management (BA in process)

Rebecca Dobert

Rebecca Dobert

What three words best describe you? Energetic, dedicated, hardworking.

What are you passionate about? I am and have always been passionate about reading. Growing up, I was the girl on the playground or on the school bus lost in my own little world with my nose buried in a book. As an adult, I know better than to pick up a book before bed because it is far too easy for me to lose track of time.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? It is far too easy to get caught up in the daily chaos of trying to balance work, school, and home. I make it a goal to try to start each morning by taking a big-picture look at my multiple to-do lists while I’m sipping my morning coffee. From there, I decide my three must-do’s for the day and what it’ll take to get them done. Doing this daily allows me to be more present and focused throughout my day instead of worrying about the never-ending to-do list that’s always competing for my time and attention.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? Elle Woods from Legally Blonde. Like Elle, I am a fiercely independent and ambitious woman who loves high heels and the color pink. I even have one of those page-a-day flip calendars showcasing a different heel each day (best Christmas gift ever, thanks Dad!). Elle proves that intelligence can come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, and that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. I can relate to many of the challenges she faces on her journey to jump-start her career and life and admire her for refusing to let anyone’s preconceived notions or opinions slow her down. What I love most about her character is that she stays true to herself and doesn’t change who she is in order to fit the mold of what a successful businesswoman is ‘supposed’ to be. I feel this sends a great message to young women trying to find their way.

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, UMassFive College Credit Union; Age 37
Education: Mount Holyoke College (BA), Isenberg School of Management, UMass Amherst (MBA in process)

Lauren Duffy

Lauren Duffy

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was very young, I dreamed of becoming an ice-cream truck driver, so that I could have an endless supply of Chipwiches.

How do you define success? I believe the road to success is never traveled alone. I feel the greatest sense of accomplishment when I am surrounded by people who bring out the best in me, and we are harnessing our collective power to create positive change.

What three words best describe you?
Resilient, tenacious, grateful.

What are you passionate about? I am most passionate about my family: my wife, Liz, and our sons, Will and Ethan. Liz and I met as students at Mount Holyoke College and have spent over 16 years now cheering each other on in our personal and professional achievements. Both of our sons have experienced some significant challenges in their early years, which brings out a particularly passionate ‘mama bear’ mentality in me. I am so proud to watch them grow and thrive.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? My mother, Karen Duffy. She has taught me so much about how to be an ethical banking professional and leader. When I was in preschool, she got a job as a part-time teller at our local credit union in Rhode Island. I watched her get her college degree by going to night school and work her way up to the role of president/CEO at a credit union in Central Mass. I would listen at the dinner table as she talked about the important role credit unions, as not-for-profit financial cooperatives, can play in the lives of their member-owners. I have great respect for the way she has always been focused on using her position to create opportunities for others, providing financial-literacy education at a community college and serving on multiple nonprofit boards. I am fortunate to have her in my life, and the professional mentorship she has provided is no small part of our relationship.

What actress would play you in a movie about your life? Ellen Page.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? My favorite coffee mug is inscribed with the words, “empowered women empower women.” I try to start my mornings with that reminder to use my privilege to lift up someone else.

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Literary Agent and Manager, the Lisa Ekus Group; Age 34
Education: Ithaca College (BA)

Sally Ekus

Sally Ekus

What did you want to be when you grew up? A marine biologist. Specifically, the first marine biologist to live in the desert because, you know, who doesn’t like a challenge?

How do you define success? My clients are happy, I am happy, our agency is thriving, and our community is flourishing with abundance and joy as a result of my hard work.

What are you passionate about? My passion is focused around my family, connecting people in both personal and professional ways, improv comedy at Happier Valley Comedy, advocacy for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and the many joys of tacos.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? It might sound cliché to say my boss has been my best mentor, but given that she is also my mother, her mentoring of me runs deep. Lisa Ekus (I call her Lisa at work and Mom at home) showed me from a very early age that you can have it all, professionally and personally. She began mentoring me from the moment she taught me how to label and lick envelopes for press-release mailings when I was just knee-high. Unlike some who grow up in family businesses, I was given the freedom to pursue my own career path. After earning my degree and during a time of personal reflection, I was welcomed back home to an entry-level position at the Lisa Ekus Group while I was figuring out my next career move. I quickly realized my years of licking envelopes and dining alongside Lisa’s clients and colleagues had imprinted an unconscious passion for working in the culinary space. Recognizing my knack for the work, I was given the chance to co-represent two of our top-tier clients for their first book deals uncharacteristically early on in my career. I fell in love with the work and making deals, and was quickly hyper-mentored. Lisa sat with me as I drafted negotiations, and she watched as I navigated my own hurdles. Now, 10 years and more than 150 book contracts later, I am proud to be a partner in the agency and Lisa’s succession plan. Our mentoring relationship has grown into full collaboration, for which I am immensely proud and ever grateful.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? “Sally would be so happy to see this room full of laughter and love! Plus, have you tried these tacos? They are amazing!”

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Clubhouse Regional Director, Hampden County, Viability Inc.; Age 36; Education: Holyoke Community College (AA), UMass Amherst (BA), Boston College (MSW)

Sally English

Sally English

What did you want to be when you grew up? As a child, I wanted to be a farmer, specifically on a horse farm. Through middle and high school, I wanted to be a journalist.

How do you define success? Success is setting goals and then beating them, but not only for myself. A big part of success is teaching and supporting those in my life to reach their own goals.

What three words best describe you? Authentic, intense, strong. I’ve also been told that ‘sally’ is fitting.

What are you passionate about? Connecting people and creating community. I love building teams and seeing how people go from consistently asking for guidance or how to do something to being able to make decisions and act on their own. Providing people, especially those with disabilities, with opportunities and seeing them grow. In a less existential sense, I love being physically active. I play roller derby, horseback ride, hike, and run consistently. I spend as much time as possible outdoors.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? My first supervisor out of grad school, Courtland Townes III, was and continues to be a positive influence on me. Courtland has a way of providing perspective on situations that helped me to understand myself and how my actions could lead to desired outcomes. He was able to give me confidence, but also keep me in line. He taught me how to be tough but fair, navigate internal politics, and (try to) keep a work/life balance. Before working with Courtland, I thought I should keep details about my personal life private from my staff. But with his guidance, I learned how to be professional but also be human and show my personality.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I am torn between Anthony Bourdain and Eleanor Roosevelt. Anthony Bourdain has such an amazing story, and I feel that, as much as he shared through his shows, he had even more to offer. I would love to discuss his experiences abroad, as they seem much more authentic than other travel shows — plus he would pick a great place to eat. Eleanor Roosevelt because of all she did to support her husband, her activist role, and her humbleness through it all.

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Audit Supervisor, Wolf & Co., P.C.; Age 29
Education: Western New England University (BSBA, MSA)

Nicole Florian-Theriaque

Nicole Florian-Theriaque

What did you want to be when you grew up? I always thought I wanted to be a corporate attorney. I entered college with intentions of the 3+3 law program at Western New England University. As a freshman, I took a required intro-level accounting course and was told by my professor and advisor to consider an accounting major. I was told I was not only good at it, but I would also have job security. This was important, as I was in college during the economic crisis of 2008. I then decided to change to a double major in accounting and finance.

What three words best describe you? Balanced, proactive, independent.

What are you passionate about? I am passionate about keeping all aspects of my life balanced. I believe it’s important to not only work hard at my career, but also continue working on myself. I’m constantly setting personal goals, such as running a half-marathon, finishing different obstacle-course races, and currently working toward a yoga handstand and crow poses. I am also passionate about giving back to the community, not only with monetary contributions, but with my time. I find it rewarding to work with high-school and college students, advising them about their future. Finally, since adopting a dog about a year ago, I have also become very passionate about animal rights and helping shelter animals find forever homes.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? “Don’t try your best, just do it.” This is something I’ve recently set myself up with at the start of each day. A yoga teacher I took a class with earlier this year told us not to try a pose, just do it, and take that with you for the rest of your day.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I would want to have lunch with Tom Brady. He’s arguably the greatest athlete of all time and represents New England sports. Even in times of doubt, he finds a way to bring his team to a win. I would ask what it’s like to work alongside Bill Belichick and be part of creating the Patriot dynasty.

 

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

​President, ​Gallagher Real Estate; Age 39
Education: ​American International College (BS)

​Paul Gallagher

​Paul Gallagher

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a WWE professional wrestler.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Every morning, I like to start the day with a positive attitude and bring my ‘A’ game in everything I do. Gratitude is a driving force in my life. I realize that I have many great people around me, including my wife, Suzanne, daughters Ashley and Angelena, and sons Ryan, Giancarlo, and Joey. Their support enables me to be the best version of myself everyday.

Whom do you look up to, and why? My son Ryan. He was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at 18 months old. Since then, he has worked diligently to overcome many obstacles which to a typical child would come naturally. My son is my inspiration and my hero.

How do you define success? To me, success is defined as being content within yourself and having balance with your friendships, mentorships, family, and professional relationships. Building these relationships has helped get me to where I am today.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Leonardo DiCaprio.

What three words best describe yourself? I would describe myself as a confident, innovative, and generous person. The values that were instilled in me at an early age by my parents have given me the confidence and foresight to grow in my personal life and business endeavors. Being in the constantly changing business of real estate, it’s important to be aware of every aspect of the industry while making daily decisions on how to move my business forward and stay on the cutting edge of the industry.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My grandmother. She passed away when I was 2 years old, and I would love to have had the opportunity to know her.

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Principal Engineer and Associate Partner, Mott MacDonald Global Engineering; Age 34
Education: University of Rhode Island (BS, MS)

Daniel Hartman

Daniel Hartman

What did you want to be when you grew up? A professional baseball player.

How do you define success? As a mindset and process of working through life’s obstacles — a journey and not a destination.

What three words best describe you? Driven, mindful, philomathic.

What are you passionate about? My family, hobbies (snowboarding, golf, running), my dog, health and wellness, self-improvement, and giving back.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? As the saying goes, it takes a village. I surround myself with people I look up to and draw something amicable from each one. My friends and close family have all been mentors in varying facets; my grandfather, Richard Hartman, and grandmother, Alice Liptak, have been especially influential.

Whom do you look up to, and why? I look up to my uncle, Ted Leigh, who embodies all the character traits I value in one person. He is bright, kind, creative, a lover of nature and animals, a patient teacher, industrious, a skilled craftsman and problem solver, an independent thinker who lives life fully, and on top of that, he tells some of the best stories I’ve ever heard.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? I relate most to Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes, because of his relationship with his pet/pal Hobbes, his constant curiosity and love of exploring and adventure, his creativity, and his free spirit.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Johnny Depp.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? It’s a three-way tie between Hunter S. Thompson, Abraham Lincoln, and the Buddha. All three contribute to how I model my philosophy on life. I look up to Lincoln for his high standard on social justice and overcoming adversity, Thompson for his free spirit and creativity, and Buddha for his treatment of self, others, and managing suffering. I think it would be an interesting lunch conversation, to say the least.

 

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Founder, Migliore Luxury Car Care Products; Director, MassMutual; Age 31
Education: Westfield State University (BS);
Western New England University (MBA)

Donald Havourd

Donald Havourd

How do you define success? In my opinion, success simply means methodically improving both yourself and your work efforts. Success is not a destination, but about the gradual improvement in what we do each day. Personally, it is important to me that I strive toward creating happiness by putting my energy toward efforts I feel passionate about, while ensuring a reasonable work/life harmony with strong family ties.

What three words best describe you? Adaptable, creative, visionary.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Take time to exercise! Staying active is important to me and has been a constant over the past 15 years. Setting up purposeful breaks in my day allows me to refresh and recharge, resulting in increased productivity through exercise.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? Without doubt, my best mentor has been my father. My dad is a tireless worker who taught me from a young age the value of hard work and dedication to a particular task. As I grew older, this helped me easily transition into the multiple different ‘outcome-based’ cultures I have crossed in my career. More importantly, I learned from my dad the importance of family and the value in simply being there for each other. Though he worked long and unusual hours, I vividly recall him attending each and every soccer game I had in high school, and sometimes even practices! Regardless of how tired he was, or how stressful the day was, he always found a way to be there.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? Tim Ferris and Elon Musk, together. Sorry, not just one! Tim is the pinnacle of efficiency and creative thinking, which would be an interesting combination with Elon, the tech visionary. I have always been in awe of how Musk can seemingly bypass all formal roadblocks in his pursuit of a meaningful mission, which I would love to learn from.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Jason Statham. It’s all about the hair, or lack thereof!

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Education Specialist, Amherst Cinema; Age 28
Education: Hampshire College (BA)

Finley Janes

Finley Janes

How do you define success? I define success as being able to bring engaged compassion to every interaction I have. When compassion and understanding are missing from our workplaces and community, people end up being sidelined and devalued. I think work can be successful only if all people involved or affected by the work feel empowered and supported.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Every day, I try to set myself up to be as present as possible. It’s really easy for me to get swept up in the fast pace of day-to-day life, so a goal I work on is slowing down, listening more, and observing more. I feel like I owe it to the people in my life and the projects I work on to show up and bring my whole self, and I think our communities are safer when we are more present because we are better at noticing what is going on with the people around us and are more likely to pick up on situations that our friends, families, and colleagues may need help with.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I would love to go out to lunch with Angela Davis. She is brave, insightful, and deeply justice-oriented, and has spent her life shining light on the injustices of the world and fighting for the rights of those in our world who are most oppressed and taken advantage of. Her book, Women, Race, & Class, was formative in helping me understand the history of how systems in this country have been set up to block certain groups from accessing power, and this knowledge was a big reason why I decided to go into education. I look up to her and would be honored to spend time talking with her over a meal.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye. He emanates playfulness and kindness, and I would hope the person who played me in a film would have these characteristics. He also has great style and has a way of making everyone around him feel comfortable and cared for, all things I’d hope for in my Hollywood self.

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Western Mass. Regional Manager, Training Resources of America Inc.; Age 30
Education: Bay Path University (BS)

Jynai McDonald

Jynai McDonald

How do you define success? Success is not always this blanketed, isolated event of one super-amazing happening. Instead, it can be incremental. I encourage anyone struggling with the idea of success to keep it simple. Set compact, realistic goals, and execute them. You will then be able to celebrate so much success throughout your life, and pessimism will be more avertable.

What three words best describe you? Unapologetic, persistent, inspiring.

What are you passionate about? Advocacy in all forms has been a staple of my personality since my teenage years. Throughout my life, I have been a sounding board and strategist against injustice — not just for myself, but for friends, family, and others in the community. I intend to make advocacy a part of my life’s work.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? My grandmothers are my best mentors. They are on different sides of my family, with totally different perspectives and different personality types, and show their love for me in completely different ways. As the matriarchs of their families, they are my confidants, financial advisors, and career coaches.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? My first goal of the day is waking up for Fajr prayer. The discipline of my day starts with my ability to roll out of bed and beat the sun rising. My morning du’a consist of asking Allah to allow me to successfully complete all the tasks that are put before me.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? I really identify with Issa Rae from Insecure. Her character is an awesome narrative of a black Millennial woman balancing work, romance, and recreation. We are both awkward girls at heart, and, like her, I thrive on obstacles and push harder when I’m told something can’t be done.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? “She’s nice, sometimes.”

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Director of Community Relations, Sunshine Village; Age 38
Education: UMass Amherst (BA); Northeastern University (MS)

Amie Miarecki

Amie Miarecki

What are you passionate about? I am most passionate about having a positive impact on my community — and my world — by advocating for positive change and being the change I want to see. In order to be the best version of myself, lifelong learning is critical in all aspects of my life. I am naturally curious, and I want to get the best information available before making a decision or forming an opinion. This means talking with people and reading multiple sources to understand the other side of the story.

What three words best describe you? Dynamic, driven, dedicated.

Whom do you look up to, and why? Both of my parents exemplify what it means to be a loyal, hardworking employee and an unconditionally loving, supportive parent. They gave me the road map to balancing work and family. I am eternally grateful to both for their excellent example and strive to be the same role model for my daughter.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? I’ve always enjoyed the sunny disposition, contagious optimism, quick wit, and intense determination of Anne of Green Gables.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? She had a great sense of humor.

How do you define success? I think it is different at each stage of life as perspectives change. For me right now, success is the feeling of happiness when I remember I have the things that I always dreamed of — my husband, my daughter, a fulfilling career, and a full life. Later in my life, that may change as my goals change. No matter what, I will measure success by how peacefully I can rest my head at night knowing I tried my hardest and did what I thought was right.

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Business Account Executive, Comcast Business; Age 37
Education: Smith College (BA)

Amelia Mosley

Amelia Mosley

How do you define success? What do Apple, Google, Amazon, Harley-Davidson, and Disney have in common? They all began with a big idea in someone’s little garage or home. Start with one push-up, one cup of water, paying down one debt, making one sale, walking one lap, writing one paragraph. Start today. Repeat tomorrow. Don’t be afraid to fail, recover, and persevere. Success follows persistence.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? The way I define success stems directly from my parents, whom I deeply admire and who are my most respected mentors. Throughout my life, they have led by example in parenting, their marriage, careers, and civic responsibilities despite whatever adversities came their way. My mother is a third-generation college graduate in a family of women who valued education during a time when racial segregation and gender inequality prevented most African-American women from equal access to learning. Though he never even had a lesson in geometry prior to college, my father used his self-taught knowledge to earn a BA in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin and later a Fulbright scholarship to Oxford University in England. They were both civil-rights activists who began traveling the world at young ages. Their inspiring lives have shaped my interests, passions, and access to everything the world has to offer.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? Before today, I never really considered what my colleagues would say about me at my funeral. So I asked two colleagues — Phil, who is also a professional comedian, and Malik, who is more like a would-be comedian (in the best sense of that moniker). Here’s what one said: “Amelia was hardworking and inspirational. She possessed a combination of qualities that made her a great salesperson and made everyone feel like a friend. Amelia was innovative, always willing to learn better ways and share new ideas. Her high-energy, bright disposition and warm smile always filled a room, and people took notice.” The other? “Now that’s she’s gone, the rest of us can finally make money!” The tearjerker came from the professional comedian.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? If I could just have lunch with Beyoncé, I’m certain that would be the beginning of a lifelong friendship!

 

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Assistant Executive Officer, Massachusetts State Universities Council of Presidents; School Committee Member, Ludlow Public Schools; President Emeritus, Massachusetts Assoc. of School Committees; Regional Director, National School Boards Assoc.; Age 32
Education: Framingham State University (BA)

Jake Oliveira

Jake Oliveira

What did you want to be when you grew up? An astronaut — until I realized I was scared of heights and tight spaces. For most of middle school and high school, I wanted to be an architect. I still have an appreciation for architecture, but physics class made me reassess that dream.

How do you define success? Feeling fulfilled at the end of the day.

What three words best describe you? Passionate, articulate, outgoing.

What are you passionate about? Public education and lifelong learning, as well as voting rights and civic engagement.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To find enjoyment, even from the little things in life — a sunset, a conversation, a smile.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? FDR. He was described as being so charismatic and engaging. Plus, he’s one of the presidents I admire most.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Apparently, some of my friends see a resemblance.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? “He was one of a kind.”

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

President and Co-owner, Adams & Ruxton Construction Co.; Age 39
Education: Springfield Technical Community College (AS),
Elms College (BS, MS, MBA)

Dorothy Ostrowski

Dorothy Ostrowski

What did you want to be when you grew up? I originally thought I wanted to be a police officer. But you only live once, so I figured I’d try being a military police officer, then a nurse, and now I own a construction company … who would’ve thought? I guess anything is possible if you put your mind to it and what you do truly makes you happy. Never settle, never have regrets.

How do you define success? Success is a smile on the faces of my husband and children.

What three words best describe you? Energetic, compassionate, loyal.

What are you passionate about? My family. Without their support, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Especially my husband, who encourages me and stands behind me 110%.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? Dorothy Jacques. She is an amazing mother to her three boys, a smart and compassionate nurse to her patients, and her will to overcome adversity and challenges is a force to be reckoned with. She may be a southern belle, but she taught me a lot above life and love.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? Wonder Woman, because sometimes it feels like I should have super powers. Wife, mom, president, co-owner, Little League team mom, daughter, veteran … that should cover it!

What actress would play you in a movie about your life? Lynda Carter.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To be the best person I can be, to keep my side of the street clean, and to be a good example for my kids. And to kiss my family good morning and kiss them good night every day.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? “She never missed an opportunity to know more or do more. She worked hard and never gave up. She supported us and encouraged us to always keep learning. She was determined to succeed.”

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Attorney, Law Office of Leah M. Phillips; Age 36
Education: Westfield State College (BA),
Western New England College School of Law (JD)

How do you define success? My definition of success is knowing that my work and involvement helps others. Assisting a client with legal issues, working with a child or family on one of the youth sports teams, or participating in other community volunteer activities all give me purpose.

Whom do you look up to, and why? I most look up to my husband, Clint. Since the day I met him, I have admired his willingness to help others. As a police officer, EMT, volunteer firefighter, husband, parent, and friend, he is that person you can call at any hour, and he will drop everything to help. I think about all those times he has left for an ambulance or fire call in the middle of the night, sacrificing much or all of his sleep, or when he missed Thanksgiving dinner because he was cutting up a fallen tree for a neighbor who otherwise couldn’t get to their own dinner. This selflessness is what I most admire and love about him. I am truly grateful that our boys have him as a role model.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? It would be incredible to have lunch with my Oma again. She was an amazing woman and made a mean tuna-fish sandwich. Oma was a successful business woman in a man’s world. But family always came first. She raised five kids and still found time for fun. She was that person I would call when I needed some guidance. She had a way of giving advice without really giving you any advice. She would lead the conversation in a way that, in the end, I always knew what to do, but came to the conclusion on my own. Her strength was admirable. Oma had a way of keeping it together during the hardest of times. Even as the cancer took her, she remained the rock I have always known. I remember her telling me in the very end, “I have lived a long, happy life. I have done everything I wanted to do. I have no regrets.” I am trying to live my life so that, when the time comes, I can feel the same way.

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Executive Director, DIAL/SELF Youth & Community Services; Age 38
Education: Greenfield Community College (AA, AS)

Phillip Ringwood

Phillip Ringwood

What are you passionate about? I’m passionate about helping young people have a chance to identify and work toward their own dreams. That passion is made manifest in my work with DIAL/SELF Youth & Community Services over the last 20 years.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Remember to breathe and try to stay positive. I try to make sure to work in time for at least a minute or more of standing meditation.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I would like to have lunch with world traveler, philanthropist, and motivational speaker Leon Logothetis. Leon has traveled the world twice without spending money, relying solely on the kindness of others for gas, food, lodging, and other needs. He then made meaningful gifts to people along the way as he was moved by their stories and kindness. He documented this in a documentary series called The Kindness Diaries. I think his stories and perspective would be very motivational.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? My most influential early mentor was my sixth-grade teacher. His words on the first day of class were something along the lines of, “you can do anything you want in my class, as long as you are ready to face the consequences.” Those words — and his encouragement of creativity and individuality balanced with accountability — have served me well over the years.

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

State Representative, First Hampshire District; Age 38
Education: Wellesley College (AB), University of Edinburgh (MSc)

Lindsay Sabadosa

Lindsay Sabadosa

How do you define success? Success is not settling into complacency but constantly striving to do better, try new things, and keep learning. We are all works in progress, but recognizing the need for evolution and leaning into the new and the uncomfortable keep life interesting and fresh.

Whom do you look up to, and why? I look up to the women who have spent their entire lives as activists and organizers and who have kept their finger on the pulse of social-justice movements, evolving as the movement evolves and welcoming in people of all ages. People like Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, and Dolores Huerta, who understand the importance of intersectional, intergenerational organizing as the sole way to fight against social and economic inequities.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To balance the need for patience with the need to be demanding, to balance diplomacy with passion and drive, and to give my all to my work while still making time for family and friends. Also, every day, I make a commitment to get enough sleep, drink enough water, and exercise, so that I have some semblance of internal balance.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I would like to have lunch with my grandparents, who passed away when I was 11. My grandfather was the first person who told me to run for office, so I would love to hear what he thinks now that I am elected. They were both more conservative, so it would be an interesting conversation because we are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. I wonder if they would still be conservative in our current political climate and where (and if) we would find common ground.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? The answer to this question has changed at different times in my life, but the fictional character I would most like to emulate is Miss Rumphius, the titular character in a children’s book who decides to do three things in life: travel the world, live by the sea, and make the world a more beautiful place. This was one of my favorite books to read to my daughter when she was little because it emphasized the components of a life well-lived: learning, feeding the soul, and serving others.

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Innovation & Design Thinking Manager, MassMutual; Age 25
Education: College of the Holy Cross (BS), Bay Path University (MS)

Payton Shubrick

Payton Shubrick

How do you define success? Success is living a life of intentionality — one that allows you to smile unwillingly with excitement because of what you do, understand that hard times are a necessary evil to get to good times, and live a life that you and the ones you love are proud of.

What three words best describe you? Innovative, tenacious, visionary.

What are you passionate about? I am passionate about challenging the status quo. It is not easy, nor is it ever comfortable, but one fearless choice at a time, one brave decision at a time, one courageous action at a time, you can change the world. In the end, some of life’s best moments are on the other side of fear.

Whom do you look up to, and why? I have always looked up to my grandfather, Hercules Shubrick. As a young man, he grew up in the racially torn South, yet, as I grew up, he continued to show me a world full of possibilities. He taught me my first lessons of sharing, caring, and strategic thinking. To me, he was a giant man with a big heart, though stern when necessary. He has been my best mentor because, despite his passing many years ago, I still use the many lessons he taught me daily.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Each day, I remind myself of the wise words of Maya Angelou: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” As I remind myself of this each and every day, it allows me to stay in control of the things that I have control of. I can’t always change people, places, or things, but I can change how I perceive them.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? Michelle Obama, without question. She was more than a first lady, but a model for grace and excellence for every African-American woman who has had to hold her head high when publicly disrespected. She so artfully reminded us that fear, anger, and vengeance are not proper motivators for life because, “when they go low, we go high.”

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? “She was gentle pressure, relentlessly applied.”

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Founder and Executive Director, Springfield Prep Charter School; Age 37
Education: Bates College (BA), Pace University (MS), Brooklyn Law School (JD)

Bill Spirer

Bill Spirer

What are you passionate about? I’m passionate about ending educational inequity and closing opportunity and achievement gaps for Springfield students. All children should have access to great public schools, and this shouldn’t be dependent on whether a child grows up in an affluent city or town. I refuse to believe that, in the richest country on earth, we cannot figure out how to give all students, including our highest-needs students, an excellent education. This is the work that has motivated me since my first job out of college, when I was a public high-school teacher, and giving all kids the education they deserve is the mission our team is committed to at Springfield Prep.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? I’m lucky to have had a number of mentors I’ve learned from, not just one. As a teacher, I had a colleague, Suzette, who showed me that excellent teaching is about attention to the smallest details and about building strong relationships with students. I was fortunate enough to share a classroom with her, and my teaching improved drastically. This experience of collaboration and learning was so positive that it informed the two-teacher-per-classroom model we use at Springfield Prep. Having two teachers in every classroom helps meet students’ needs and simultaneously creates natural opportunities for mentoring and collaboration. I also worked with a principal, Elana, who taught me about the importance of having a clear, unwavering vision for excellence, and about the tenacity it requires to build a school (or any company or organization) from the ground up. The influences of Suzette and Elana are built into Springfield Prep, and I’m very grateful to them.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? I’m glad I won’t be around to hear it! But seriously, I think they’d say I’m driven, direct and candid, and pretty intense when I’m focused on my work or believe strongly about an issue. I think they would also say I am incredibly dedicated to our students and families and will go to bat for them and our school. I’d want them to say that I’m funny, but I think that’s mostly wishful thinking.

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Director of Pharmacy, Wellfleet; Age 32
Education: UMass Amherst (BS, MHA)

Jennifer Stevens

Jennifer Stevens

What did you want to be when you grew up? I always enjoyed science and math because they explain how things work. When I was really young, I remember being interested in space and wanting to work for NASA. As I got older, I became interested in healthcare and wanted to become a physician.

How do you define success? Success is achieving personal satisfaction and filling one’s life with meaningful and diverse experiences shared with family and close friends. From a professional standpoint, I find satisfaction in setting new goals and overcoming challenges that require developing new skills and learning new things.

What three words best describe you? Ambitious, dedicated, outgoing.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? I am a notorious list maker and planner. At the end of each day, I set my goals for the next. Although having a plan is helpful, life is not entirely predictable, so I try not to focus too much on completing everything on my list that day. However, it feels good to reflect and see what I have accomplished. Despite the busy life I create for myself, I recognize the importance of personal and family downtime and try to carve that out each day.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? Anthony Bourdain. He was a great storyteller and conversationalist with a passion for people, food, and travel. I rarely cook the same recipe more than once and will always pick the most adventurous or exotic food on a menu. It would be interesting to hear about the different foods he has tried around the world.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? I have been rewatching old episodes of Friends lately. Aside from relating to Monica Geller’s type-A yet quirky personality, we share similar hobbies. We both like to host and bring our loved ones together through food.

Whom do you look up to, and why? My great-aunt Chong, who raised me. When I was growing up, she set an example through her hard work ethic, selflessness as a caregiver, and dedication to her family. She has always encouraged me to do the best I can, and even as an adult, I strive for opportunities to make her proud.

 

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Vice President, Engineering Operations, Belcan Engineering; Age 39
Education: Western New England College (BSBA, MBA),
Quinnipiac University (MS)

Ryan Watson

Ryan Watson

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was younger, I wanted to be a fireman. Unfortunately, I have a terrible fear of heights. Climbing up a 50-foot ladder was not going to be possible.

How do you define success? As I grew up, team sports played a large part in my development. Being part of a team, you quickly realize you can’t be successful unless the people around you work together. I continue to pull from these experiences in adulthood, and in my business and personal life. I always try to surround myself with positive, brilliant, and hardworking people. By doing so, not only can I be successful, but I can help others as well.

What three words best describe you? Passionate, hardworking, driven.

Whom do you look up to, and why? My parents. Not only have they always provided love and support, but they have an unwavering confidence in me. They are extremely hardworking and have an entrepreneurial spirit that I really admire. They married very young and never attended college, but own a successful business that was built from the ground up. They instilled in me the drive to be my best.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? My goal is to do one thing each day that has a positive impact. This could be an impact on someone within my organization, by mentoring them or providing guidance on a project. I have also made a conscious effort to give back and, through our company, have joined forces with Journey Home. This organization gives people a second chance, and we place them with jobs within Belcan. If I can make at least one impact each day, then it wasn’t wasted.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I would like to have lunch with any U.S. president, Republican or Democrat. I am in awe of the massive responsibility that a sitting president has, and I would love an opportunity to talk about the responsibilities and how they handle it all.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? I would hope they would say I didn’t take myself too seriously. They would say I lived a full life, always put my family first, and was fair and honest in how I treated people.

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Deputy City Procurement Officer, City of Springfield; Age 33
Education: Massachusetts Maritime Academy (BS), Western New England University (JD), Western New England University (LLM)

Theo Theocles

Theo Theocles

What did you want to be when you grew up? Either a police officer or JAG officer.

What three words best describe you? Loyal, passionate, driven.

What are you passionate about? Football, the law, music, outdoor/shooting sports, and rides around Western Mass. in my Jeep with my wife, Jenny, or my dog, Sadie.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? My best mentors would have to be my parents. I learned the values of hard work and perseverance from my father, and patience and stoicism from my mother.

Whom do you look up to, and why? I was hired as Springfield’s deputy Procurement officer at the age of 28, and have been one of the younger managers for the city ever since. I have looked up to many different managers and department heads in the organization for institutional knowledge and leadership advice along the way. I am extremely fortunate for that mentorship and career advice, as well as being part of the city during this exciting time.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? I am a firm believer that life is one big learning experience. I am also a very competitive person. Every day, I make it a goal to try and be better than the day before, and I try to apply this to my marriage, family and friends, legal skills, and career goals.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? Either Theodore Roosevelt or my grandfather. I would want to hear their outdoorsman stories and perspectives on a variety of topics from both of them.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? I would probably have to go with Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation. He has a libertarian streak I often identify with, and seems to always want to better himself as a well-rounded man. He also works in municipal government, and despite the tough-guy persona, he truly cares about his community.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? “What are we going do with all these blue highlighters, and who is going to draft all these contracts?”

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

The Class of 2019

Owner, Mercedes-Benz of Springfield; Age 39
Education: University of Mannheim, Germany (MS)

Peter Wirth

Peter Wirth

What did you want to be when you grew up? An accountant. I even interned at a CPA’s office in high school. I’m not sure what went wrong.

What three words best describe you? Determined, detail-oriented, open-minded.

What are you passionate about? Spirited discussions and cars, obviously.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? My first boss, who ended up being one of my best friends and my best man. He commands respect by sheer work ethic, determination, and integrity. He coaches by asking the right questions instead of helping with the answers, gives room to fail, shares the spotlight, and is willing to take the blame.

How do you define success? In business: being able to create and effectively communicate a vision, establish a culture of respect and ambition, and create an environment that allows everyone to reach their full potential. In life: seeing my kids turn into good people who go through life with grace and courtesy as well as the necessary resolve and stick-to-itiveness to be the best at what they choose to do.

Whom do you look up to, and why? My parents, because they are awesome! My wife, because she is just as awesome!

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? Ernest Hemingway. I feel like he would have a few good stories, and there would most certainly be cocktails accompanying the lunch.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Meryl Streep. Let’s see if she really can play anything.

 

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

Women of Impact 2018

Leaders Who Have Been to the Top

BusinessWest’s chosen Women of Impact for 2018 know what it’s like to surmount challenges, tackle huge obstacles, and clear bars they’ve set very high.

As they receive their awards on Dec. 6, they and a gathered audience of friends, family, and colleagues will hear some motivational words from someone who’s done all those things in a very literal sense.

Indeed, the keynote speaker for the Inaugural Women of Impact Awards will be Lei Wang, the first Asian woman to climb the highest mountain on every continent and to ski to both the North and South Poles. 

Wang, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Tsinghua University in Beijing, an M.S. degree in Computer Science from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, was on track for a promising career in information technology — until she discovered her passion for mountaineering in 2004 and set her dream on reaching the peak of the world’s highest mountains on seven continents and skiing to the North and South poles.

With no previous athletic training, she started with running, from one mile to a marathon. She built her basic fitness foundation and learned the craft of climbing from scratch. She gave up a normal life to dedicate herself to this undertaking and overcame many physical and ideological challenges with her commitment and determination. Her remarkable journey culminated at the top of Mount Everest on May 24, 2010. With that climb, she became the first Asian Woman to successfully reach the world’s seven summits and two poles.

Wang now shares her reflections and experiences in front of a wide range of audiences as a motivational speaker. At the Dec. 6 event at the Sheraton in Springfield, she’ll be sharing the day with eight women who have reached the pinnacle of their chosen profession, but who have also devoted their lives and their careers to finding ways to give back to the community.

That’s why they’ve been chosen as Women of Impact, with the emphasis on both women and impact.

The Women of Impact for 2018 are:

• Jean Canosa Albano, assistant director of Public Services, Springfield City Library;

• Kerry Dietz, principal, Dietz Architects;

• Denise Jordan, executive director, Springfield Housing Authority;

• Gina Kos, executive director, Sunshine Village;

• Carol Leary, president, Bay Path University;

• Colleen Loveless, president and CEO, Revitalize Community Development Corp.;

• Janis Santos, executive director, HCS Head Start; and

• Katie Allan Zobel, president and CEO, Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.

The awards luncheon will begin at 11 a.m. with registration and networking. Lunch will begin at noon, followed by the program and introduction of the Women of Impact by Kate Campiti, associate publisher of BusinessWest and Healthcare News and Tamara Sacharczyk, news anchor and I-Team reporter for WWLP-22 News.

The Inaugural Women of Impact is sponsored by Bay Path University, Comcast Business, Country Bank, and Granite State Development Corp, with media sponsor WWLP-22.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call (413) 781-8600, or go HERE.

Thank you to our sponsors:


Sponsors:

Bay Path University; Comcast Business; Country Bank; Granite State Development

Exclusive Media Sponsor:

Springfield 22 News The CW

Photography by Dani Fine Photography

Features

Photos from the June 2 Event

Gala sponsor Sarat Ford Lincoln with special guest judge Lindsay Arnold (fourth from left) and Bay Path President Carol Leary (fourth from right).

Gala sponsor Sarat Ford Lincoln with special guest judge Lindsay Arnold (fourth from left) and Bay Path President Carol Leary (fourth from right).

Andrew Associates, Mirror Ball sponsors of the Gala.

Andrew Associates, Mirror Ball sponsors of the Gala.

From left to right, Prestley and Helen Blake; President Carol Leary and Noel Leary

From left to right, Prestley and Helen Blake; President Carol Leary and Noel Leary

Emcee Ashley Kohl and special guest judge Lindsay Arnold from ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

Emcee Ashley Kohl and special guest judge Lindsay Arnold from ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

Gala Honorary Chairs: (from left to right) Steven and Alissa Korn; Drew and Lauren Davis; and Carrie ’86 and Tim Burr.

Gala Honorary Chairs: (from left to right) Steven and Alissa Korn; Drew and Lauren Davis; and Carrie ’86 and Tim Burr.

From left to right, Gala judges Jonathan Besse, vice chair of the Board of Trustees; Lamont Clemons, Springfield business leader; and Lindsay Arnold from “Dancing With the Stars” provided comments on the dancers.

From left to right, Gala judges Jonathan Besse, vice chair of the Board of Trustees; Lamont Clemons, Springfield business leader; and Lindsay Arnold from “Dancing With the Stars” provided comments on the dancers.

A shot of the dance floor!

A shot of the dance floor!

Founder and CEO Delcie Bean IV from Paragus Strategic IT with partner Daryll Sverrisson’98.

Founder and CEO Delcie Bean IV from Paragus Strategic IT with partner Daryll Sverrisson’98.

Patricia Faginski, vice president and financial advisor at St. Germain Investment Management danced with Gunnar Sverrisson of Ballroom Fever in Enfield, CT.

Patricia Faginski, vice president and financial advisor at St. Germain Investment Management danced with Gunnar Sverrisson of Ballroom Fever in Enfield, CT.

From left to right, President Leary joins the dancers at the end of the competition, Daryll Sverrisson ’98, Delcie Bean IV, Maria Rodriguez-Furlow ‘’10 G’12 of Bay Path, Gunnar Sverrisson, and the winner of the Mirror Ball Trophy:  Patricia Faginski.

From left to right, President Leary joins the dancers at the end of the competition, Daryll Sverrisson ’98, Delcie Bean IV, Maria Rodriguez-Furlow ‘’10 G’12 of Bay Path, Gunnar Sverrisson, and the winner of the Mirror Ball Trophy: Patricia Faginski.