WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williams College Regional Association of Berkshire County awarded alum and Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn with its first regional Purple with Purpose Award.
The presentation to Wynn, class of 1993, was made at the Williams College Faculty House. The award is given to nominated alumni who have made a substantial impact in their communities.
"Thank you very much," Wynn said upon receiving the award. "This is overwhelming."
Wynn noted that his affiliation with Williams has remained a steadfast importance in his life and to give back to the community that allowed him the opportunity, he has taken it upon himself to expose the college as much as possible and show all students that Williams could be a possibility.
"As a student who was a financial aid student, I am not blind to the fact that this opportunity came at a cost of many other contributors who made it possible and I am beholden to that," he said. "If I can convince one adjudicated high school student that Williams is a possibility for them, if I can convince one BCC athlete that transferring to Williams and wrestling is an option, or if I can convince one high school student ... making bad decisions that making the right decision could result in Williams for them then that's what I have to do."
Jennifer Hermanski, who helped lead the Berkshire nomination process, said although the selection process was difficult, Wynn was the clear recipient.
"We had several nominations for the chief, but it was very difficult," Hermanski said. "We were impressed to see the community recognize those Williams alums who are here in the Berkshires, and I think we have a unique situation here because we are so close to the college ... We sometimes forget that there are Williams alumni here that are doing wonderful work."
She said Wynn graduated from Taconic High School and soon after set his sights on military service in the Navy. After transferring to Williams College and graduating, he considered careers in federal law enforcement but ultimately settled in the Pittsfield Police Department.
Wynn was the director of the Westside Neighborhood Resource Center and, within the department, quickly climbed the ranks to chief in 2007. He was one of the youngest police chiefs in Pittsfield history.
During his time on the department, he has been responsible for a variety of projects including community policing, bike patrol, narcotics training, and SWAT.
She said Wynn is involved in organizations throughout the county and serves as the law enforcement representative to the Western Massachusetts Regional Homeland Security Committee and he is the president of the Berkshire County Law Enforcement Council.
Wynn is also a wrestling coach at BCC and is part of a Williams winter study course that teams adjudicated adolescents with Williams College students who expose them to a college campus.
"We are proud of the way that you have distinguished yourself as a highly skilled and trusted community leader," Hermanski said. "You are truly and exemplary alumnus who embodies the spirit of Purple with Pride."
Wynn than fielded questions and said the biggest challenges the department faces include domestic violence, traffic accidents, and drugs, guns, and gangs.
"We have a big drug problem in Western Mass that has been that way my entire career," he said. "The drug trade has fueled the rise of gangs and those gangs are importing guns. We are dealing with that on a regular basis."
He added that he is incredibly proud of the Pittsfield Police Department.
"They are great law enforcers, but they are also great public servants," he said. "I can point to tons of examples of this that we have done to support our community and mutual aid stuff we do."
He added that he was proud the department's involvement in the Basket Ball Cop Foundation. Pittsfield Police have given out basketballs and installed hoops throughout the city to help build positive relationships between officers and kids.
Director of Alumni Relations Brooks Foehl said the Purple with Purpose Award is part of the engagement platform of the Teach It Forward campaign, a multiyear campaign aimed at raising $650 million and engaging the entire Williams community in building the future of the college.
He added that it allows the college to recognize even more alumni each year.