Deputy Chief Barbara Arrighi reflects on time at Mount Holyoke

Photo by Jenny Cho ’20  Deputy Chief Babara Arrighi has been working for  the Mount Holyoke police department for 44 years.

Photo by Jenny Cho ’20

Deputy Chief Babara Arrighi has been working for  the Mount Holyoke police department for 44 years.


Deputy Chief Barbara Arrighi has worked for the Mount Holyoke police department for almost 44 years. Throughout her career in law enforcement, Arrighi maintained a fervent passion for karate. She has an eighth-degree black belt and is possibly the only woman in the world to be awarded the title of Hanshi, a name given to teachers of masters in Shito-rya International Karate DO Kai. 

Growing up in Easthampton, Arrighi knew she didn’t want to follow a conventional path and become a secretary. “A lot of women my age were going into office work and I couldn’t imagine myself doing that,” she said. “I knew I would be unhappy if I did that. At that point police work would come up every now and then and I started seriously considering that as an option.” 

She graduated from Holyoke Community College and was hired at Amherst College soon after. Six months later, she received a job offer from Mount Holyoke and never looked back. “I was more needed here, I knew that for a fact. I had grown up in a small town and when I came here I felt like I was exposed to the whole world. It was an amazing experience.” Arrighi believes that her experience at Mount Holyoke has changed her immensely. “You have to be ready to change,” she said. “The most difficult part of this job is to constantly adapt. You also need to have a sense of humor and be ready to apologize when it’s your fault.”

In addition to working at the police department, Arrighi has taught courses in self-defense and Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) at the College since 1977 and 1994, respectively. These classes are well-received by Mount Holyoke students. “Whenever people ask me what classes I’m taking [this semester] I breeze right by all the boring stuff and go straight to Barbara’s class,” said Tori Gladden ’19. “Her class is focused, but open. It’s full of questions and jokes, but the actual moves are serious.”

Arrighi believes one of the qualities that has enhanced her journey at the College has been self-discipline gained by years of practicing karate. Arrighi’s journey with karate began in 1972 when she started doing judo and eventually took classes in karate at the advice of her father. Arrighi believes that the most important lesson that karate has taught her is “the art of fighting without fighting. If you train hard enough you don’t need to fight, you can just walk away,” she said. 

Arrighi is the head of the karate club on campus and hopes that it instills lifelong lessons of self-discipline in students. “Karate gives you confidence and helps you understand what your limits are,” she said. “It’s a different way of looking at things. It has made me more peaceful and I hope it can do the same for students.”

In the future, Arrighi looks forward to post-retirement life when she can spend more time with her family, “go to the Metropolitan Opera every day,” travel and finally write a book. When looking back on her journey at Mount Holyoke, Arrighi said, “There are definitely days, especially during the cold, when I wish I could be at home relaxing but then I remember just how much I love this job. It has been an amazing experience.”