MCLA Presidential Medallion

MCLA Presidential Medallion

The MCLA President’s Medallion was created to honor individuals or organizations that have demonstrated exemplary service to MCLA, or have made strong contributions to better people’s lives in the Berkshires and/or the Commonwealth.

Established in 2007 by President Mary K. Grant, MCLA brings back this tradition to honor the champions of Berkshire County and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Prior recipients include Martha Coakley and former MCLA Vice President of Academic Affairs, Steve Green for his 36 years of service. Each honoree has demonstrated the utmost dedication, appreciation, and have fostered innovation at MCLA and in the Berkshire County region.

For its 125th anniversary celebration in 2020, MCLA will honor BRIDGE, the Fairbank Group, and Jane Allen '61 HD'02, who have all made outstanding contributions to the Berkshire community.

2020 Honorees:


Founded in 2007, BRIDGE is a grassroots organization dedicated to catalyzing change and integration through promoting mutual understanding and respect among diverse groups and serving as a resource to both local institutions and the community at large. BRIDGE serves as a catalyst for change and integration through collaboration, education, training, dialogue, fellowship and advocacy. BRIDGE is designated by the Commonwealth as a vendor in the Supplier Diversity Program in the spirit of the Affirmative Market Campaign. BRIDGE facilitates cultural competence programming in schools and institutions to promote equity and to educate on systemic racism and cultural barriers. Services include cultural literacy and cultural competence training; consulting, facilitation; youth leadership; multicultural education; parent engagement and education; civil rights and social justice forums and advocacy with diverse groups.

Through a 360 degree perspective on community and civic participation, BRIDGE has designed a holistic approach to community and public health. BRIDGE's goal is to impact hearts, minds and behaviors that result in positive cultural shifts and systemic changes in policy, law and practice towards a more just, safe and equitable society.

In 2019, BRIDGE was recognized as a national finalist by Everyday Democracy for the Paul J. Aicher Award.

BRIDGE was recognized in 2015 as a Berkshire Trendsetter for Non-Profit Impact and as a statewide finalist for Massachusetts Non-Profit Network for Small Non-Profits in 2016.

Accepting the Presidential Medallion on behalf of BRIDGE: Gwendolyn VanSant

Gwendolyn VanSant is an experienced organizational change consultant and coach who works at the intersection of diversity leadership, equity and inclusion, and strategic planning. She is the CEO and Founding Director of BRIDGE and the Equity and Inclusion Team Lead at Changemaker Strategies. A skilled community organizer, Gwendolyn is also a well-recognized thought leader on racial justice and reparations.

Gwendolyn currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Town of Great Barrington W. E. B. Du Bois Legacy Committee. She is on the Advisory Board of Greylock Federal Credit Union’s Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) program, and serves as a board member for Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, UU Mass Action Network, and Shakespeare & Company.
A frequent speaker and panelist, Gwendolyn spoke most recently at the 38th Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of W. E. B. Du Bois, the 2019 Western Mass Health Equity Summit, and PolicyLink’s Equity Summit (2018).

Gwendolyn holds a BA from Simon's Rock with concentrations in Languages and Literature, Art and Art History, and Women's Studies. In 2015, she graduated with a certificate in Positive Psychology from the Wholebeing Institute at Kripalu, she has completed the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond - Undoing Racism training, and in 2011, the Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact (LIPPI) through the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts.

The Fairbank Group

The Fairbank Group is driven to build things to last – not only the businesses but the relationships and partnerships that stand behind them. Since 2008, they have been expanding their eclectic portfolio of businesses. This portfolio includes three resorts—Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Cranmore Mountain Resort, and Bromley Mountain Ski Resort—and real estate development at all three resorts, in addition to a renewable energy development company, EOS Ventures, and two technology companies, Snowgun Technology and Bullwheel Productions.

Whether it is providing families a place to connect by experiencing their mountain resorts, teaching kids self-confidence through learning to ski and ride, building a more sustainable future through renewable energy development, creating career opportunities for employees, or contributing to the communities in which they operate and serve, the purpose of Fairbank Group entities goes far beyond that of a profit motive. Their mission is to be the best in any industry they are involved in and enhance the lives of the people they touch while doing so.

The Fairbank Group is headed by the father-son team of Brian and Tyler Fairbank, with Brian serving as Chairman and Tyler as Chief Executive Officer. They partner with noted Boston entrepreneur and philanthropist, Joe O'Donnell in all their endeavors.

Accepting the Presidential Medallion on behalf of The Fairbank Group: Brian and Tyler Fairbank

In 1969, Brian Fairbank was a ski school director in Wisconsin when he accepted an opportunity with Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort that would advance his career and begin the pursuit of what would become his life’s passion.  In his managerial role at Jiminy, Brian created a year-round resort that reflected his early vision. Brian eventually took ownership and became President of Jiminy Peak.

Brian served on the Board of Berkshire Health Systems for two decades and was the town moderator for Hancock for 35 years.  In 2006, Brian established a donor advised fund with Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation allowing his family to direct gifts to the charities and causes they support.  

After completing college, Tyler Fairbank worked in the family business for a few years before leaving to pursue other interests.  Tyler was instrumental in the startup of the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation and served as a trustee and as chair of the Board of Trustees of MCLA.

In 2008, Brian and Tyler once again joined forces and created EOS Ventures, a renewable energy company.  With the installation of the country’s first privately owned wind turbine, Jiminy Peak is one of the greenest resorts in the nation.

In 2011 Brian and Tyler became co-CEOs of The Fairbank Group.  Then in 2013, Brian stepped back to become chairman focusing on the long term strategies of the company, and Tyler became sole CEO.

Jane Allen ’61 HD’02

Jane Allen has crafted a life encompassing learning, teaching and service. The decades have carried Allen from student to classroom teacher to elementary school principal to elected town official. She is a wife, a mother, and a grandmother.

Allen is a North Adams native. The daughter of Lindon and Mary Brooks, Ms. Allen is a graduate of North Adams elementary and secondary schools. While in high school, she met her future husband, John Allen. After graduating from college, John and Jane were married. They have three daughters---Tracy, Terry and Mimi--- and four grandchildren---Brooke, Alex, Simon and Case.

Allen graduated from North Adams State College in 1961 with a B.S. in Elementary Education and received the North Adams State Promising Teacher Award. She worked as teacher and director at the Williamstown Cooperative Nursery School and served as a committee volunteer that established the first day care center in Northern Berkshire. Allen was later hired to teach first grade in Williamstown where she was also president of the Williamstown Teachers Association. In 1985, Allen earned an M.S. in Educational Administration at the State University of New York at Albany. As a principal, Allen worked in the Central Berkshire Regional School District and at Clarksburg Elementary School. During her tenure as principal, she had the honor of serving as President of the Massachusetts Elementary School Principals Association. After her retirement, Allen worked as a long-term substitute in the Guidance Department at McCann Vocational School and, on two different occasions, served as Acting Executive Director of Berkshire Arts and Technology Public School (BART). In retirement, she returned to her retail roots at Tunnel City Coffee on Spring Street in Williamstown.

Leadership and service have played an important role in Allen’s life. She has served on numerous boards including A Better Chance (ABC), the Williamstown League of Women Voters, and the MCLA Board of Trustees to name a few. She is a founding member of the Williamstown CO2 Lowering (COOL) Committee and the Fund for Williamstown. Jane served 12 years with the Williamstown Board of Selectmen.

Allen has been honored with numerous awards including the Jane Allen Fund and the naming of an MCLA classroom in her honor. In 2002, Jane received an Honorary Degree in Pedagogy from MCLA. She is also the recipient of the MCLA Service to the College Award, the Northern Berkshire Business and Professional Woman of Achievement Award and, the Faith R. Scarborough Community Service Award.

Allen has great passion for the entities she serves. Giving back to her profession and her community through these entities has been her life's work.