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Sue Bush
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Berkshire Health Systems Honors Two

12:00AM / Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Berkshire Health Systems awarded honors to Richard L. Whitehead and retired Judge Alfred Barbalunga.
Pittsfield – Two prominent community members have been honored with Berkshire health Systems awards.

In recognition of over four decades of volunteer service to the community and to Berkshire Medical Center, the Berkshire Health Systems Board of Trustees has awarded Richard L. Whitehead the Gladys Allen Brigham Award.

Richard L. Whitehead

Whitehead, former chairman of the board and chief administrative officer of the Berkshire Life Insurance Company has been associated with numerous community organizations throughout the Berkshires since moving to the area in 1963. He served as Berkshire Medical Center Board of Trustees chairman from 1992 to 1994.

Whitehead joined Berkshire Life in 1963 as director of employee relations, beginning a 29-year career with the company. He was promoted to vice-president of personnel and company relations, elected senior vice-president and secretary in 1973 and executive vice-president and secretary in 1984. In 1990, Whitehead was elected a company director and chairman of the board and chief administrative officer and secretary. He retired in 1992 as chief administrative officer and secretary, and in 1995 as chairman of the board.

Whitehead has served with over a dozen non-profit organizations and has been honored many times for his volunteerism. He chaired the Berkshire Community College Board of Trustees for many years, chaired the Central Berkshire Chamber of Commerce and was the first president of the North Adams State College Foundation, now the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Foundation. He has been a director of the Pittsfield YMCA, the Berkshire Athenaeum, Berkshire Museum, Berkshire Community Action Council, Pittsfield Action for Opportunity and many other organizations.

Whitehead was a founding steering committee member of the Berkshire Leadership Program, chaired Lodestar – the Berkshires first ever community needs assessment – and chaired the Berkshire United Way’s long-range planning initiative.

Whitehead is the recipient of numerous honors and awards for his volunteer service, including the 1999 Robert K. Agar, Jr. Volunteerism Award and 1992 Thomas Cooney Award, both from the United Way, and more recently the 2000 Higher Education Service Award from the Hudson Valley Mohawk Association of Colleges and Universities.

A graduate of Otterbein College, Whitehead also attended two years at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Prior to moving to the Berkshires, he was director of admissions for Otterbein, industrial relations assistant for Westinghouse Electric in Pittsburgh and personnel manager for Home Life Insurance Company of New York City.

The Gladys Allen Brigham Award was created in 1976 by the Berkshire Medical Center Board of Trustees and the BMC Auxiliary to honor an outstanding individual for his or her distinguished volunteer service to the hospital and the community.

The honor is named for the late Gladys Allen Brigham, a former longtime member of the BMC Board, who was perhaps the most devoted and relentless volunteer in the Medical Center’s history, setting an extraordinary example of service.

Honorable Judge Alfred Barbalunga

In recognition of a quarter century of service to the community as a District Court judge and his compassion for and dedication to the many behavioral health patients who came before him during his tenure on the bench, the Honorable Judge Alfred Barbalunga was yesterday awarded the Francis X. Doyle Award by the Berkshire Health Systems Board of Trustees.

Barbalunga retired in 2006 after serving for 26 years as First Justice of Central Berkshire District Court. During that time, he spent many days hearing commitment cases involving patients from Berkshire Medical Center’s Jones III Unit. Rather than having those patients transported to the court for their hearings, Judge Barbalunga set a remarkable precedent and came to the hospital to conduct the hearings.

The Jones III Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit opened at BMC in 1988. It was at that point that Judge Barbalunga proposed holding the commitment hearings at the hospital, citing the dignity and well-being of the patients.

“The Honorable Judge Alfred Barbalunga has done many remarkable things during the course of his service as a Judge in the Central Berkshire District Court," said Berkshire Health Systems Board of Trustees Chairwoman Susan Kormanik. "But in 1988, he showed the staff of Berkshire Medical Center and the patients who were going through the newly opened Jones III Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit the wisdom and generosity that have been a hallmark of his life and career in public service. Recognizing the severe emotional and physical strains that surround anyone coping with mental illness, Judge Barbalunga suggested that patients who required commitment hearings remain at the hospital for those hearings, and he would come to them, eliminating the added stress of a hearing held in a courtroom. Judge Barbalunga would adhere to this practice right up to his retirement in 2006, and would recommend its continuance under his successor. It is no wonder that any conversation with the people who know tonight’s honoree almost always include two words – dignity and respect.”

After receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of Akron in Ohio in 1964, Judge Barbalunga went on to study law at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, graduating in 1967, initially with the goal of serving as a lawyer to help with contracts and the operation of his family’s contracting business, ES Barbalunga. He eventually opened a popular law practice in Pittsfield, which was open from 1967 to 1980.

In the mid 1970’s, Judge Barbalunga joined the campaign staff of Frank Bellotti, who would go on to win election as Massachusetts Attorney General. In 1975, he was appointed by Bellotti as a special assistant attorney general, responsible for the state’s four western counties, including the Berkshires.

In April of 1980, Governor Edward King appointed Judge Barbalunga to the Central Berkshire District Court seat he would hold until his retirement in 2006.

The award is named in honor of the late Francis X. Doyle, a longtime member of the Berkshire Medical Center Board of Trustees, who often said he “took it personally” when the less fortunate needed help.

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