Donna's Story

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SWAMPSCOTT- Donna Lee Umana Newcomb of Swampscott, a nationally known authority on non-profit fund-raising, passed away on January 14 of complications from cancer. She was 72. She was the wife of the late John "Jack" E. Newcomb.
A Boston native, Donna was born and raised in the Orient Heights section of East Boston. She was the daughter of the late Guy and Yolanda (Vitale) Umana, who owned and operated a family bakery in East Boston. She was the niece of the late Hon. Mario Umana, a municipal court judge and veteran state legislator.
Her formative years in a tight-knit Italian neighborhood were influenced by politics and community involvement. Her father was a political activist and, in later years, became a columnist for several local newspapers. Some of her earliest memories were of leafleting in Maverick Square and asking voters to cast their ballots for "Uncle Mario."
Music was also a strong influence in her young life. Her mother, a graduate of the New England Conservatory, taught piano. In later years, Donna was very close to her uncle, the late Bill Vitale, a well-known jazz saxophonist. Bill toured the country with Woody Herman in the 1940s and played with big band organizations in New York and Miami into the mid-1990s.
A graduate and active alumna of Girls' Latin School, Donna received a BA degree in psychology from UMass, Amherst. She began her development career at the Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford where she served in increasingly responsible positions for more than 28 years. During her tenure, she led the hospital through two successful capital campaigns and established a nationally recognized, comprehensive, development program that served as a model for other non-profit community hospitals across the country. Donna was also responsible for the creation of the Office of Corporate Philanthropy for Hallmark Health, the merged entity of Lawrence Memorial and three other community hospitals.
Following her many years of fundraising in the health care realm, she joined Suffolk University as a senior director for development and major gifts. There she mobilized a trustee committee to complete a capital campaign for the School of Law. Donna also designed and managed a first-ever capital campaign for the College of Arts and Sciences.
Taking on the challenge of fundraising and development in a new arena, Donna accepted a similar position at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. During her tenure, she revitalized fund raising efforts by repositioning the leadership annual giving program, resulting in record-breaking numbers in dollars raised and donors participating.
Late in her career, Donna returned to health care philanthropy at the Lahey Clinic Medical Center in Burlington, where she served as director of campaign planning. While there, she structured the Clinic's first formal patient referral program and established the first donor recognition program for physicians and colleagues.
While pursuing her career in philanthropy, Donna also took the time to be involved in a new endeavor, joining her late husband Jack in opening La Prima Donna in 1994, an award winning, gourmet Italian food shop and catering service in Swampscott. Working weekends, she helped Jack pursue his second career and shared his passion for fine cuisine. Prior to moving into the role chef/entrepreneur, Jack was an associate director at MITs Center for Advanced Engineering Study. He also traveled the world as a lecturer and consultant on the principles of quality management.
During her long and productive career, Donna was an active participant in many professional organizations including the New England Association for Health Care Philanthropy, where she was past president; the National Society of Fund Raising Executives (NSFRE), where she served as a New England chapter board member; and Women in Development. She also served as chair of the Association of Philanthropy for Fund Raising at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Donna was recognized as a Fellow by the Association for Health Care Philanthropy, the highest, most prestigious, peer designation. She also received professional certification from the National Society of Fund Raising Executives.
Donna is survived by her partner and best friend Harvey Pastan of Marblehead. Donna and Harvey enjoyed boating, reading, going to the movies, spending time together in Nantucket and Florida and they were patrons of the Boston Symphony and the Beacon Hill Seminars. Also surviving are her sister Anne of Swampscott, and brother, Mario of Lynnfield, as well as nephews, Stephen, Michael, Christopher, and niece Valerie Amenta. She also leaves many close friends and colleagues who will miss her loyal friendship, lively curiosity and generous spirit.
Arrangements are private in the care of Vertuccio & Smith, Home for Funerals of Revere. No services are planned. Memorial gifts may be made to WBUR Radio, 890 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215 and/or to the William Vitale Scholarship Fund, Berklee College of Music, 1140 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02215. For online condolences, please visit www.vertuccioandsmith.com.
Published on February 1, 2018
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