Leslie Tarr Laurie, President/Chief Executive Officer, of Tapestry Health in Florence, will be the keynote speaker at the 4th annual Desmond Tutu Public Health Lecture Series at American International College in Springfield, Mass. The event will be held Thursday, April 4 at 10:00 a.m. in the Griswold Theatre.
Since 2010, American International College has hosted distinguished speakers in its annual Desmond Tutu Public Health Lecture Series. Archbishop Desmond Tutu served as the series' inaugural speaker and its namesake.
Laurie has dedicated herself to health and human services since 1969. Under her leadership, spanning the existence of Tapestry Health, more than 100,000 people have been served in the 3,000-square-mile region of Western Massachusetts.
Founded as the Family Planning Council of Massachusetts in 1973, Tapestry Health remains the only non-profit organization in the region to offer family planning and reproductive health care to often marginalized individuals, such as young people, women living in poverty, recent immigrants, uninsured and underinsured persons, injection drug users, the homeless, and men and women with HIV/AIDS, despite their ability to pay.
Dr. Peter Bittel, a member of the AIC Board of Trustees, is one of the series’ originators and a strong advocate for its mission. “The function of the lecture series is to bring attention to issues of public health in the college community,” said Dr. Bittel. He noted that, according to a recent study, Hampden County has the highest incidence of public health issues in the commonwealth, underscoring the need for local public awareness campaigns.
Leslie worked as the Director of Education and Outreach at Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania from 1969 to 1971, and then as the Western Massachusetts Coordinator at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts until 1973. In the latter position, she held responsibility for assessing, designing, organizing, and implementing a family planning program. Her efforts culminated in the establishment of the Family Planning Council of Western Massachusetts in 1973, renamed Tapestry Health in 1998.
Aside from Tapestry Health, the breadth of Leslie’s activism remains extensive. She has served as the president of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), the Chair of the Massachusetts Family Planning Association, and served for many years as the Governor’s appointee to the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. She has served on the Board of Directors for many organizations, including the Guttmacher Institute, Providers’ Council, and Human Service Forum, as well as co-founded the statewide HIV Project ABLE and the Abortion Fund of Western Massachusetts.
Laurie has also taken her passion for reproductive health abroad by working in Ghana, and continued her involvement in international development as a trustee of World Education. She has attained many awards including the Mass Women’s Political Caucus Abigail Adams award.
A native of Long Island, New York, Leslie earned her master's degree from Columbia University in 1970, and her BA from Chatham College in 1968.