James Birge Inaugurated as MCLA’s 12th President

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James F. Birge was inaugurated as the twelfth President of MCLA on April 21, surrounded by friends, family, colleagues and students. Although Church Street Center wasn’t packed tight, there were still multiple attendees there to celebrate Birge’s day.

The ceremony began with a multiple speeches from Mohan Boodram, Board of Trustees, a beautiful rendition of “America the Beautiful” by MCLA seniors Crysta Cheverier, Victoria Fernandez and Virvioly Valdez and a touching speech by Birge’s sister, Elizabeth.

President Birge reciting his Presidential Address after his medallion presentation. Photo by Emma Monahan.

North Adams mayor Richard Alcombright was in attendance to give a speech, as well as State Senator Adam Hinds, State Representative Gailanna Cariddi and former MCLA President Mary Grant.

When Grant was introduced, MCLA students began a protest that was at first only a rumor. About ten students, all dressed in black, stood up following student Falyn Elhard.

“We want people to know that it wasn’t towards Mary Grant,” said student and protester Margareth Antonio.

The protesters were moved outside by Celia Norcross right away. Both she and Cathy Holbrook denied comment.

Student Ritshly Bissereth talked about how he feels the school is all talk, but no action, pointing out how on the inauguration stage, there were not many people of color.
The group of students also stated that they are not only standing up for multi-cultural students, but for those who are not being heard.

Despite the protest, those in attendance were all smiles after the inauguration. The Allegrettos’ performance of “The Best is Yet to Come” was livening, even making President Birge clap along.

Afterwards, attendees, staff, faculty and delegates from colleges and universities gathered in front of Church Street Center to congratulate President Birge. Taking “selfies” with friends and colleagues, he was in high spirits.

“It feels great,” he told The Beacon. “It’s nice to see dear old friends again. To be here is a great gift.”
SGA President Tim Williams, who presented the medallion alongside Daniel Trombley, Chair of the Foundation Board of Directors, also gave comment about the day.

“It was a great event. I’m really happy for him,” he said.

Amber Combe (left) and President Birge (right) embrace after his Inauguration. Photo by Emma Monahan.

Grant, who was bombarded by old friends and former students, also extended her congratulations to President Birge.

“It was inspiring, exciting, a way to celebrate the history and future of MCLA, and what’s to come,” she said. “I’m happy for Birge.”

Afterwards, guests were invited to the Campus Center Marketplace for the student reception. Food was provided, as well as performances by NeXXus. There, Senator Hinds spoke with The Beacon.

“Oh, man,” he said. “What do I even say? It was a wonderful confirmation of MCLA, of how important it is, the students and community are here to celebrate, it’s wonderful.”

We here at The Beacon congratulate our 12th President, James F. Birge, on his inauguration.