John and Barbara Wood, Inaugural Recipients

Video paying tribute to John and Barbara Wood

John and Barbara: Early Beginnings

John grew up in Guelph and always knew he wanted to enter the family business, W.C. Wood Co. Ltd., started by his father, Bert. He won the gold medal when he graduated in 1964 with his business administration degree but it wasn’t just that he had the academic smarts, Barb insists. It was his determination and work ethic that were behind his success.

With her father’s medical office attached to the house, Barb grew up surrounded by medicine and healthcare in Niagara Falls, in what she calls a volunteering family. Her father, brother and four cousins were all physicians, and her father, Dr. Davidson, was instrumental in fundraising for the local hospital. Her mother was active in the Ladies Hospital Auxiliary.

As young people, their individual paths would meet up at the University of Western Ontario, as students. As Barb recalls, “I stood at the doorway to the classroom and saw a young man writing in a notebook and thought ‘he’s not bad looking, I’m going to sit over there’. After several more classes together, he asked me to go see a play as our first date.”

A life of family, business and service to others

John led the business for 31 years and, when he retired in 2005, it was the second-largest manufacturer of household freezers, refrigerators and dehumidifiers in North America. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guelph Chamber of Commerce in 2015.

For his part, John was also an advocate for the hospital. He encouraged his Guelph-based employees to donate to the hospital through payroll deduction. He was always the first to give and W.C. Wood Co. Ltd made additional corporate gifts. John felt that supporting the local hospital was part of supporting his workers and their families, working to ensure they had access to great local healthcare.

As a Rotarian for more than 50 years, John embodied the organization’s motto of Service Above Self and contributed to many local and international social service programs. He paid forward the education he received through generous gifts to his alma mater as well as to the University of Guelph. In 2018, the John F. Wood Centre for Business and Student Enterprise was created to advance education in community engagement and entrepreneurship as well as to support students through start-up funding and mentorship.

As an educator, Barb taught physical education and health in Oakville and later at John F. Ross High School in Guelph before leaving teaching to raise their two children, Susan and David. In addition to volunteering at the children’s schools, she also began to give her time to The Foundation of Guelph General Hospital.

Barb served on its board of directors from 1993 to 1999, and was a volunteer fundraiser for the first capital campaign for a CT Scanner. Barb and fellow board member Grant Robinson made an effective team, raising the necessary funds quickly. Barb shares, “Grant was the money man and I was the show-and-tell with the comparison of images a CT could produce versus just an X-ray. We just kept on visiting people and asking.”

The Canadian Cancer Society and many other organizations have benefited from Barb’s considerable fundraising skills. Barb was a co-founder of the Wheels of Hope golf tournament and has volunteered for 36 years, raising funds to support cancer patient transportation to and from medical appointments.

…it was an honour to serve and a privilege to be able to give back

– Barbara Wood

A highlight from Barb’s time on the Foundation board was starting Black Tie Bingo in 1997, and in the years since, they have supported the annual fundraising gala and the hospital in numerous ways. Barb was a dedicated volunteer for the Foundation’s first fundraising event, Hot Foot Happening, a 24-hour relay run – often taking the 2:00 to 6:00 a.m. shift. As long-time champions of Guelph General, Barb and John also supported the MRI & More campaign in 2007 and later, they were among the founding members of The Foundation of Guelph General Hospital’s Circle of Life fundraising collective.

In 2018, the Hospital named The John and Barbara Wood Main Lobby in their honour, in recognition for their legacy of over 30 years of giving, including a $2 million contribution toward the Together We Care Campaign. The effort was co-chaired by their daughter Susan Frasson, continuing the family tradition of giving back.

Lasting Impact

Together, John and Barb supported dozens of other local charities through their business, family foundation and personally, impacting every corner of our community over the years.

While John is not with us physically to receive this award, as a community we thank him as well as Barbara for inspiring us all.

Julie Byczynski, CEO, The Foundation of Guelph General Hospital

Because of their philanthropy, service and dedication to strengthening our Guelph community, John and Barbara Wood are celebrated this evening as the inaugural recipients of the Inspirational Philanthropist Award.