Derek Gentile: BCC shaped me for rest of my life


PITTSFIELD -- My friend Ben Garver’s photo on the front page of Thursday’s Eagle of Berkshire Community College brought back memories.

I remember making my way up that little hill, and seeing Robert Louis Stevenson’s quote in front of me.

"To travel hopefully," it said (and still says), "is a better thing than to arrive."

"Dang," I thought. "That’s an interesting thing to put on a college building. It’ll be the first thing kids see when they come here."

OK, OK. I wasn’t too deep then, and I’m not too deep now. But Stevenson was right, of course. For me, the journey has made all the difference.

I wish the college well on its master plan, and as I’ve told them, I’ll do whatever they need to help.

I owe a considerable debt to BCC. The college not only gave me a huge boost, educationally, when I finally transferred to Northeastern University. But in many ways, it saved my life.

No, I’m not being dramatic. When I graduated from Hoosac Valley High School, I was easily one of the more accomplished goofballs the school has ever turned out. Smart, yes. But a goofball nevertheless.

I don’t know if local school newspapers still have those articles about what the seniors are going to do after graduations. And then the paper either lists work or whichever school they’ve opted to attend.

After my name, was one word: "undecided."

Not undecided as to what college I was going to, which is probably what most people thought when they read it. Undecided as to what I was going to do with my life, period.

I had lived in a pretty structured life for years and years. I knew I had to graduate high school sooner or later, but I certainly didn’t think too far ahead of that.

Anyway, this was how the wind blew: A couple people I knew were going to BCC in the fall, so if I wanted to go, I had a ride. I filled out the application form (in, I think, July). And I got accepted. Hoo-Hah! I was a college boy! Where can I get one of those raccoon coats?

At that point, the only thing approximating a plan was that I knew I had two more years to make another plan. So the pressure was off, for now.

And I attended BCC. I remember the first class I had was Jim Border’s history class. I looked around, and there were a host -- a host I say! -- of attractive women from other communities. Hmm. I hadn’t thought of that, although it was pretty logical.

The other thing was that Border was great. And challenging and interesting. And I thought that morning: Now, I’m in college.

I got smarter at BCC. I became more focused. Really. Jim Border, Karen Border, Michael Brooks, Art Phinney, Win Piper and a lot of other professors shaped me. It’s not a great term, "shaped." It sounds like I’m a piece of pottery. But it represents what happened.

I played basketball for Lew Markham and track for John Mautner at BCC and learned a lot about the sports, but more importantly, I made friends that endure today.

In fact, I had so much fun hanging around with the Taconic guys and the St. Joe guys and the PHS guys and the Monument Mountain guys that I didn’t really want to leave after two years. So I didn’t. I took a few extra courses and stayed for 21Ž2 years before I finally left for NU.

That was cool, too. But it’s another column.

To reach Derek Gentile:,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile


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