BCC Announces Keynote Speaker for Commencement Ceremonies

Charles Redd, DEI Officer at BHS, says "experience is knowledge."

PITTSFIELD, MA — Charles Redd, a 1995 graduate of Berkshire Community College's nursing program, will be the keynote speaker for BCC's graduation ceremonies at Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts on Friday, May 31 at 4:30 p.m.

Redd, who went on to receive a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Elms College in 2014 and a master's degree in healthcare administration from Southern New Hampshire University in 2020, is the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Officer at Berkshire Health Systems.

Charles is the embodiment of a BCC success story. He not only graduated from BCC and went on to get his master's degree, but he is now an invaluable addition to the BHS team and a pillar of his community. We are so proud to call him an alum.

BCC President Ellen Kennedy

Charles Redd

In the 1970s, Redd joined a program called the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO), a voluntary school desegregation program. As a result, Redd attended school on the South Shore in Scituate from sixth grade through high school graduation. The opportunity allowed him to learn about different cultures and realize that "people struggle everywhere." He lived with a host family with nine children.

In February 1985, a cousin who was "like a brother" to Redd was killed in a gang shooting. Devastated, Redd moved out of Boston to the nearby suburb of Revere, where he worked as a nursing assistant. In 1987, acting on a leap of faith, he left to move to Pittsfield. He considered going to school for respiratory therapy and decided to visit BCC. The idea of paying for school proved too difficult, so he joined the workforce instead.

Things changed a few years later when his daughter was born. He enrolled at BCC, starting with classes in English and chemistry. He struggled, not yet realizing that he was dyslexic. In 1995, he graduated from the nursing program with honors — something, he admits, he never thought he would do.

As the first DEI Officer at BHS, Redd is focused in his mission. "I talk first about community relationships, because I think as a health system, we need to build those bridges and relationships between us and the community," he says.

Of the many ways Redd could choose to define his success, it is this: Once a year, a former patient of his sends him a text on the anniversary of their sobriety. "It's about making a difference in people's lives. We never know how we touch somebody in that moment, but people remember," he says. "It keeps you moving. It drives you."

Before you can earn that success, Redd says, you have to take the leap. For those hesitant to enroll in college, he acknowledges, it is a big step — especially for those who haven't been to school in a long time. "But I learned that experience is knowledge. Eighteen-year-old Charles would not have done well at BCC, but 26-year-old Charles thrived. If I went to a major university at that age, back then, I probably would've struggled."

Redd says that without the support of his wife of 25 years, Erin, or his three children, Cassandra, Dakota and Anthony — and his grandson Eli — he wouldn't be the nurse he is today.

Redd also credits his success to his mother Phyllis (Redd) King, who passed away in December, for raising him and his two younger brothers, Ken and Tracy, as a single parent in inner city Boston. "I never would have made it without her leadership and guidance and without the love and support of my brothers," he says.

Speaking at BCC's commencement is a full-circle moment for Redd, who says, "I am honored. I never thought that when I graduated in 1995 I would be the keynote speaker 29 years later."

Learn more about BCC's commencement.