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Becker College awards honorary doctoral degrees to individuals who merit our highest recognition by attaining achievements of extraordinary and lasting distinction and demonstrating personal and professional qualities that are consistent with the mission and values of Becker College: outstanding humanitarian or public service in the global arena, in our nation, or in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; exceptional contributions to knowledge in the world of scholarship; creativity and innovation in any field that has enriched lives; and support of our College.
Cherylann Gengel has devoted more than 25 years to her marriage to husband, Len Gengel, and raising three children. She and her husband formerly owned the popular Grand Slam Café in Rutland, Mass., together, where they hosted many events for Boston Red Sox players.
In 2010, the Gengels redirected their lives to focus on founding the 19,000-square-foot Be Like Brit orphanage in Grand Goave, Haiti. The mission they created for the orphanage is “to serve the children of Haiti by establishing a safe, nurturing, and sustainable orphanage in an environment where they can grow, learn, and thrive,” and to raise the next generation of leaders in Haiti. They dedicated themselves to building the orphanage to honor the last wish of their daughter, Britney, who died in the tragic earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010.
The couple founded the Britney Gengel’s Poorest of the Poor Fund (dba: Be Like Brit), a non-profit organization which served to raise funds to build the orphanage, and Gengel took on the role of treasurer. While her husband traveled between Grand Goave and Rutland, focused on the construction of the orphanage, she acted as primary fundraiser for the project, raising $2 million.
Gengel manages Be Like Brit from its headquarters in Massachusetts. She became a member of the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW), and was profiled by NAPW in April 2012. Conversations Magazine named Gengel one of “25 Women Changing the World,” in its March/April 2014 issue, along with such names as Oprah Winfrey and Chelsea Clinton.
The Gengels have made numerous appearances to raise awareness and funds for Be Like Brit and have been interviewed extensively in the media. Together they published the book, Heartache and Hope in Haiti: The Britney Gengel Story, in 2013, which has since received many positive reviews, including those from President Bill Clinton and U.S. Senator John Kerry.
The Gengels wrote about their strong foundation of faith, hope, and love. Their book also portrays the transformation they underwent on their emotional journey. Gengel tells of the generosity of children who held fundraisers for Be Like Brit—one Worcester elementary school raised more than $4,000, and a ten-year-old girl who asked for gifts for the children of Be Like Brit on her birthday, instead of for herself.
In his foreword to Heartache and Hope in Haiti, U.S. Representative from Massachusetts James P. McGovern said of the Gengels, “They are the type of people who change the world.”
Cherylann and Len Gengel live in Holden, Mass. and have two sons, Bernie, 22 & Richie, 18.
WTHS has seen significant improvements during Dr. Harrity’s tenure. The proficiency levels of Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams have increased from 27 percent to 92 percent in English language arts, and from 35 percent to 84 percent in math. In 2008, the school began offering Advanced Placement courses. In 2013, the school’s graduation rate was best in the district—at 95 percent—with 83 percent going on to college.
In 2013, Dr. Harrity was selected as the Massachusetts Principal of the year. In addition, in October 2013, WTHS received the National Blue Ribbon School distinction for outstanding student achievement from the U.S. Department of Education. WTHS has also been named a Breakthrough School in 2011, by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
WTHS was the subject of Harrity’s doctoral thesis, Education’s perfect storm: a case study of the transformation of Worcester Technical High School. She discussed how the school transformed into a national model for vocational technical education.
In late 2013, Dr. Harrity was honored nationally as the 2014 MetLife/National Association of Secondary School Principals National High School Principal of the Year. She is the first Massachusetts principal to be so named in the program’s 20-year history.
Dr. Harrity was also invited to testify at a hearing before the 113th Congress Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, in September 2013.
Dr. Harrity was selected as the 1997 Teacher of the Year for Worcester Public Schools, has been inducted into the Worcester Public Schools Athletic Hall of Fame, and was a Massachusetts State Teacher of the Year semi-finalist in 1998.
Prior to her position at WTHS, Dr. Harrity served as principal of Wachusett Regional High School in Holden for one year. She was also appointed as coordinator of Work for Worcester’s Youth, an organization which helped students find summer jobs and assisted them with college and financial aid applications.
A member of the Worcester Public Schools Athletic Hall of Fame, Harrity was a three-sport athlete at Doherty Memorial High School, a field hockey and softball coach at Doherty, and an assistant basketball coach at the College of the Holy Cross. She also played for the women’s basketball team at Providence College.
Dr. Harrity received a bachelor of arts degree with a major in social work from ProvidenceCollege. She earned a master’s degree in moderate special needs from Assumption College, and a master’s degree in early childhood education from Worcester State University. In 2013, she earned her doctoral degree in educational leadership from Northeastern University.