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The Gift of Knowledge and Confidence

December 23, 2019

“When we walked in, we were just in the moment with them,” shared Leslie Wood recalling the emotions of attending the orientation for the English as a second language program funded by the generosity of she and her husband, Lyman.

The couple worked with Baystate Health Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Yemisi Oloruntola-Coates and the Foundation’s Kathleen Bronner to establish the Lyman and Leslie Wood Language Fund, which created a pilot program designed to assist employees with their English communications skills to feel more confident in their English-speaking interactions with both patients and colleagues. 


The course’s first cohort is made up of Baystate Health Hospitality team members, led by Senior Director Stephen Boyle. Professionals from the International Language Institute of Massachusetts will teach the courses.

Unexpected connections

Though the main intent of the course is to assist with improved English communication, students will get much more than that. When Lyman and Leslie first entered the classroom, they couldn’t help but notice how quiet the group was. For Leslie, supporting a program is about connecting people, which is exactly what she did. She promptly walked over, introduced herself, and began to chat with participants, learning more about what led them to the course. The more she engaged, the more they engaged, and soon, the quietness evaporated.

“When we attended the first class, it was amazing how the feeling in the room changed when everyone started connecting,” shared Leslie. “It really was one of my best days to see the students move from being nervous to being a part of something. They were empowered.”

Lyman and Leslie’s generosity brought to life a program that makes a tangible difference in the lives of Baystate Medical Center employees and patients who utilize services at the hospital. And, thanks to their support and dedication, the program will continue to grow.

“We have known Baystate Health for years and trust them with our investment,” said Lyman.

“I like to support areas where you can see results,” added Leslie. “When you see how happy the participants are and the difference that this program will make, it’s a no brainer for me in terms of supporting it.”

You can learn more about supporting programs like this through Baystate Health Foundation