For the third consecutive year, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) was named as a Top Ten Public Liberal Arts Colleges in a list of 2014 rankings by U.S. News and World Report.

Public schools run the gamut from small liberal arts colleges to large research institutions. MCLA comes in 10th on a list that puts the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis at No. 1.

MCLA President Mary K. Grant said in a statement she is pleased MCLA has earned this distinction in the publication's 2014 "Best Colleges" listing, and largely credits the college's faculty for providing students with a top-ranking education.

"Through exceptional undergraduate research opportunities, diverse study away programs, abundant service learning opportunities, and many other programs, MCLA's first-class public liberal arts education equips our students with a diversified skill set in an increasingly complex world," said Grant. "This prepares them to succeed in graduate school, in careers, and as informed and engaged citizens."

Once again, MCLA -- a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) -- shared the Top Ten recognition with other COPLAC institutions: New College of Florida; St. Mary's College of Maryland; University of North Carolina -- Asheville; and University of Minnesota -- Morris.


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U.S. News and World Report ranks colleges based on indicators that reflect a school's student body, its faculty, and its financial resources, along with outcome measures that signal how well the institution achieves its mission of educating students, according to the report. To see the full report, visit: http://bit.ly/gb5FxQ.

To learn more about MCLA, visit MCLA.edu.

Here's a blast from the past -- James Taylor's distant past.

In 1971, living in a house he built himself on Martha's Vineyard, Taylor kept a pet pig named Mona -- both were pictured in a Time Magazine cover story that year.

In a New York Times Magazine article this past Sunday, author/activist Michael Pollan recounted how his own pet pig, amusingly named Kosher, had a close encounter with JT and Mona during summer vacation on the Vineyard.

Pollan's porker, weighing in at 150 pounds, had outgrown Manhattan apartment living. So, after a 1971 agricultural fair where both pigs won blue ribbons, Taylor agreed to pig-sit Kosher until the following summer at his place, which Pollan, 16 at the time, depicted as a "vaguely gothic hippie house."

Mona did not take kindly to the porcine intruder into her territory, so a separate, makeshift pig-pen was hastily built in the woods nearby. However, it was too late -- Pollan's account described how Kosher had succumbed, literally scared to death of Mona.

Taylor, through his wife Kim, assured County Fare that he had tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in what turned out to be a futile effort to save Kosher.

Years later, Taylor composed an ode to his own pig, then near the end of her life, titled -- naturally -- "Mona." We've never heard him perform it at Tanglewood, but it's included on his 1985 acoustic-folk album, still in print on CD, titled "That's Why I'm Here."

We're told no pigs are in residence at Chez Taylor high in the hills overlooking Lenox, but Ray the cat and Ting the pug are buddies who share sleeping quarters.

Now in its seventh season, the Lenox Library's Distinguished Lecture series is gearing up for another intriguing series of informal conversations with area notables, beginning this weekend.

Organized by Jeremy Yudkin, local resident and professor of music at Boston University, the first guest is Thomas Daly, curator of education at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. He will explore changes in American culture since Rockwell's memorable Saturday Evening Post covers during the mid-20th century.

Daly plans to address the artist's continuing relevance in the age of economic globalization and the dominance of technology.

"Changing Perceptions: Norman Rockwell and America" will be presented Sunday at 4; the lectures are free, though donations are accepted. Future lecturers in the monthly series include Lenox's Trinity Church Rector Michael Tuck (Oct. 20) and former rock-music record producer Tom Werman (Nov. 17), now co-owner of the Stonover Farm Inn near Tanglewood.

Among the winter-season guests are Michelle Gillett, author, Berkshire Eagle columnist and poet; Williams College astronomy professor Jay Pasachoff; Shakespeare and Company Artistic Director Tony Simotes, and, on one program, a trifecta of local government leaders: State Sen. Ben Downing, D-Pittsfield, state Rep. "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, and Lenox Select Board Chairman David Roche.

County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers. Visit the County Fare blog at www.berkshireeagleblogs.com/countyfare.