Alumni Heroes in their Communities

By Kevin Soja

The COVID-19 pandemic has tested us all in some capacity. That’s one of the many challenges of this crisis — it impacts each person and each family differently.

In these moments of great challenge and uncertainty, we can also find optimism and strength in the profound and heartwarming stories of people making a difference in this world. These stories and people exist within our very own Berkshire community. Alumni, parents, and students gathering and sending masks and medical supplies to the School, members of our faculty and staff distributing those supplies to local hospitals, alumni in their respective communities courageously working to provide food and essential services, and countless other acts of kindness that have unintentionally gone unrecognized. While this generosity of spirit is not a surprise, it is certainly affirming. It speaks to an integral part of our mission, which is to instill the “highest standards of character and citizenship” in our Bears.

We have chosen to dedicate the April "Alum of the Month" feature to our alumni on the front lines, providing vital care, supplies, or even simple goodwill to people in need. Especially at a time like this, their compassion, their unwavering commitment to service, and their determination to make a difference for the greater good are extraordinarily inspiring. They are courageous, they keep us safe, and they give hope to others when it’s most needed.

Thank you, Bears! We are truly grateful.

Originally published in April 2020. Updated February 2021.


We know there are many more Bears making a positive impact on their communities. Please consider sharing your story below. Thank you.

Todd Thomas '89


A little ingenuity has gone a long way in helping restaurants in Rhode Island survive the pandemic. Todd Thomas '89 shares that he helped design an outdoor dining igloo, strong enough to withstand 70-mph wind, rain, and even snow! Todd credits his curiosity on the makers-sphere and his architecture background at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

"We were able to respond to an emergency grant program from the State of Rhode Island to help our state's restaurants and bars be able to remain open and salvage some sort of income, while doing it safely as possible during a pandemic. Over the course of the design we've evolved quickly from a desktop prototype built from a beachball and some garden wire to a full-on commercially viable product. They've generated a lot of positive buzz."

Kay Humes Paz '15


“I am currently working as a registered nurse at Yale New Haven Hospital's COVID ICU. I was relocated from my job as a nurse in the operating room to help on the front lines taking care of our critically sick COVID patients. I was just accepted to graduate school for Family Nurse Practitioner and will be starting this summer. I will continue to help until the last COVID patient is discharged. I am grateful for my time at Berkshire School and attribute my success to the dedicated faculty and staff guiding me through my early years of education. Stay strong and go Bears!”

Stephanie DeFiores Corey ’98 


"I'm an Emergency Medicine Physician in Rochester NY, at Rochester General Hospital. We are seeing a rise in COVID cases and doing our best to keep people safe. Stay home and healthy!”

Katrina Seidman Curtiss '93


"I work in the CCU at Fairview Hospital which is a critical access hospital about 15 minutes from Berkshire School. I can’t’s scary going to work each day. My days have included swabbing possibly positive patients in their cars in the hospital parking lot, assisting in intubations, taking care of rehabbing COVID patients, and nursing critically ill patients that waited far too long to be seen. The impact on the health of the community is immeasurable, and I have isolated myself from family to try to protect them. Thank you to the Berkshire community for checking in on me and my family and for the support from around the globe!"

Don Kendall '66

Mack Molding of Arlington, Vermont, a leading plastic molding company, recently began manufacturing respirator masks for medical personnel that were adapted from the company's snorkeling masks. Mack is owned by Don Kendall '66.


Bryan Houseman '00


I am an Orthopedic Trauma Surgeon in Manchester, NH. We are doing everything we can to continue to help people. Stay safe, protect your community, and do your part. Go Bears!

Yvette Booyse Gordon '87


I am OB/GYN in the Houston area. I work at a Federally Qualified Health Center where we are screening for COVID-19. Our positive patients have included pregnant women. Everyone stay safe!

Thomas Regan '08


When Thomas Regan '08 learned that the COVID-19 outbreak would prevent Berkshire School students from returning to campus, he mobilized an online platform to provide daily workouts and wellness advice. Regan's experience as a personal trainer and gym owner have certainly kept our Bears motivated and moving!


Seline Skoug '80


I was a family practice/pediatric LPN for 10 years and I am now an RN working in the ED at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. Covid has been hard on everybody, we are a small community but we are strong, prepared and will get through this. I'm also a volunteer advanced EMT in Arlington, VT. Stay safe everyone!

Sherry Yang ’19 & Jason Chau ’01


Sherry Yang ’19 sent masks from her home in Shanghai, China to Boston Children’s Hospital and to a lab where Sherry previously worked at Weill Cornell Medicine that is processing some RNA data of the COVID-19 virus. Meanwhile, Jason Chau ’01 shipped 1,000 masks from Guangzhou, China to Berkshire Health North for distribution throughout Berkshire County.

Elvia Gignoux '87


When she heard there was a shortage of PPE at her local hospital in Sharon, Conn., Elvia Gignoux '87 went on a mission to supply masks. She raised money for supplies while a friend did the sewing, and together they provided nearly 500 hand-sewn masks to nurses, EMT's, and the local food pantry. She has also been organizing pizza deliveries on behalf of the community to the staff at Sharon Hospital each weekend.

"There are so many people who can use a helping hand these days. See what you can do in your community!" 

Kim Scala Taillefer '11


I'm a Senior Medical Technologist in the Microbiology Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Our lab is running hundreds of tests every day around the clock. We've come a long way since the beginning of March!

Sukey Mullany '05


"Still living gracefully as Mr. Piatelli would want as I care for my sick patients."

Alex Brunel '72


"As of May 5, 129 of my frontline colleagues at the Cambridge Health Alliance (in Cambridge, Mass.) have tested positive for COVID-19. Only 2 have died so far. That’s up from 115 the previous week. We’re not out of the woods yet, folks. Stay safe. Both ICU and PSYCH occupancy rates are high, but we still have some capacity. Many colleagues are taking 12-hour shifts in our hospitals. We are running twice-daily mindfulness stress-reduction support sessions for staff and the public in English, Portuguese and Spanish. There are a wonderfully wide range on offer. You can take a break yourself at"

Brooks Anne Heady Burdick '98


"I’m a labor and delivery registered nurse at Berkshire Medical Center. Though we are poised to care for patients with COVID-19, much of our work so far has been centered on supporting our patients as they confront giving birth during this tenuous time. In addition to continually assessing the health status of our patients, we are coaches, birth partners, patient advocates, photographers, and liaisons between patients and families. As we continue to allay the fears of our patients during this unique moment in history, we work hard to create intimate space to allow for the joy of birth to prevail."

Caitlin Hettinger McNeill '01

Caitlin Hettinger McNeill '01, who raises hens with her husband, Kip, is using their surplus of fresh eggs to help others. They're offering up free eggs to those in need, with an option to make a donation to Volunteers in Medicine.

“A few neighbors said that they really wanted to give me money for the eggs, so I thought about an organization that I admire and that does impactful work in medicine in the community."


Scott Grogean '91 P’19 

“Things at BMC (Berkshire Medical Center - Pittsfield, Mass.) are pretty intense as we are preparing for the anticipated surge of COVID-19 patients. Both Kegan (Class of 2019) and I have managed to stay healthy. We're all hoping that our surge and peak are not as bad as predicted. Hoping for the best but planning for the worst. I hope everyone on campus is staying healthy too.”

James Russell ’05 


"I'm an Emergency Medicine Resident working in the ER at Lincoln Medical Center in NYC. The devastating impact on low-income and minority communities is heartbreaking and sadly, not the main cause of my sleepless nights. I am more fearful that this will not lead to any impactful changes to our healthcare system on a national level, and for that, I am left feeling truly helpless."

Michelle Derr '82


Community generosity is helping struggling families to maintain a healthy food supply during this difficult time. Michelle Derr '82 is the Director of South Berkshire Family Services and WIC at Community Health Programs (CHP), where she has kept busy supporting the increased need for services, especially at their food pantry.

Sam Hooper '12

Courtesy: VTDigger


Sam Hooper, owner and president of Vermont Glove, a family-run glove business in Vermont, has pivoted to producing protective masks during the COVID-19 outbreak.

"While we are not heroes like those fighting on the front lines of this pandemic, I felt the need to get in and help where we could and that has transformed into us producing thousands on thousands of masks for essential personnel. We made the transition early because I saw the writing on the wall for the need; furthermore I told my team that I was going to do whatever it takes to keep them employed and off of unemployment so they can continue to provide for their families during these uncertain times."


Marissa Reitnour Sisak '98


"I am a registered nurse working at Phoenixville Hospital in Phoenixville, Penn., about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia. I work on our COVID unit and throughout the hospital where I am needed — ER and ICU. I am blessed to have incredible coworkers, amazing community support, and we are protected with PPE. Our patients are very sick and it has been sad, scary, and physically exhausting at times, but I love what I do. I have never been more proud to be an RN!"

K.C. Fuchs '80


K.C. Fuchs '80 serves as the Chief Operating Officer of the Silver Shield Foundation, which helps the children of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty with the cost of their education.

"I have been dedicated to working to support our uniformed first responders who lose their lives in the fight against COVID-19. The Silver Shield Foundation will be providing financial support to their children for educational needs.”


Elisabeth Russell ’06


“I'm an Internal Medicine Resident working in the ICU at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara in California. We've had several successes this week getting our COVID-19 patients through the worst of the disease. The surge has been manageable thanks to everyone adhering to social distancing. Keep it up and stay safe!”

Robin McGraw '70


Robin McGraw, deputy sheriff and president of Berkshire Education and Correction Services, has helped distribute nearly 1,700 heads of lettuce to local food pantries and charities. The lettuce was grown in a newly-built aquaponics greenhouse facility in Pittsfield, Mass.


Marion Yates '97


I'm a Nursing Administrator for three hospitals in the Los Angeles area and one in New York City. Trying to motivate the doctors and nurses and keep everyone smiling has been my job lately. Sometimes I surprise the units with a dance, or ask for a group selfie. Other times, I share a kind word or a joke. Together, we can beat this!

Charlotte DeLeo '04


Charlotte DeLeo '04 is an ER doctor at UMASS Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass treating COVID-19 positive patients. 

Kendall Coyne Schofield '11


Kendall Coyne Schofield '11 and her husband, Michael Schofield, have been providing families in the Chicago area with meals through the Schofield Family Foundation.