Diane Portnoy

Founder & CEO


Diane Portnoy is founder and CEO of The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc. (ILC) in Malden, MA, located six miles north of Boston. Opened in November 1992, the not-for-profit organization’s mission gives immigrants a voice in three ways. The English Language Program provides free, year-round English classes to immigrant and refugee adults in Greater Boston to help them become successful workers, parents and community members. The Public Education Institute informs Americans about immigrants and immigration in the United States, and the Institute for Immigration Research, a joint venture with George Mason University, conducts research on the economic contributions of immigrants.

Her creative impulse to open a free school where adult immigrants can learn English stems from her own immigrant background as the daughter of Polish Holocaust survivors. As a toddler, Diane and her parents immigrated to the U.S. through Ellis Island shortly after the end of WWII. The family settled in Malden. She observed the difficulty her parents and other immigrants in her community experienced learning English and adjusting to a new country, culture and language.

Under her visionary leadership, The ILC has grown from three classrooms serving 60 students a year to a nationally recognized education center that serves 900 students a year with a staff of 33. Since its inception, The ILC has served more than 11,000 immigrant adults from 122 countries who live in 89 Greater Boston communities.

Ms. Portnoy is an expert in the adult education profession. She is a Massachusetts certified teacher in adult basic education and in grades K-8. She received her BS in Elementary Education from Boston University and her MA in Curriculum and Instruction from Cornell University. She is a sought after speaker on the issues of immigrants and immigration and published a book entitled Immigrant Struggles, Immigrant Gifts. It features the accomplishments of 11 immigrant groups in the United States and shows how each of them faced discrimination, struggled to assimilate and ultimately made significant contributions to American life from the country’s founding through today.

She has received numerous local and national awards including Eastern Bank’s Community Quarterback Award, the Massachusetts Literacy Champion Award and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for her lifetime achievement working with immigrants and refugees. In 2022, Senator Edward Markey read a tribute to her work into the Congressional Record.

In this video from a 2011 swearing-in ceremony for new citizens, Diane shares her story of becoming a U.S. citizen.

Spread the word