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Donna Lee Umana Newcomb

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. 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.

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  1. Gene Reppucci
    Feb 5 2018

    Dear Family & Friends of Donna;

    I have known Donna for many, many years. When she began her development career at Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford, I was a Trustee & worked closely with her over her 28 hears there. She was the best, always pleasant, efficient, effective & conscientious.

    Donna was a kind, gracious person, grounded in her values, and always proud of her family & where she came from. I feel fortunate to have known her as a good friend for many years. A gift to honor her memory has been made to WBUR Radio.

    With condolences,
    Gene Repucci

  2. Mark Kostegan
    Jan 29 2018

    How extraordinarily sad to learn of Donna’s passing. I have known Donna through our fundraising professional associations. With her, and often with Jack before his passing, we shared good company and so much laughter. She was part of a close knit group of professionals who leaned on each other for advice and for encouragement.And with whom we had so much joy. In the past ten years since my move to New York City I saw and spoke with Donna infrequently. However I will always remember her contagious smile and indomitable spirit. I only wish I could have said good bye.
    Donna, you will be missed and very fondly remembered.
    Mark and Karen Kostegan

  3. Carolyn and Joe Bellefeuille
    Jan 28 2018

    Dear Family of Donna,
    We were surprised and saddened to read about Donna’s death. I had spoken to her just before she was planning to go to Florida, and she said things were going well. She had given us her address in Florida, and we had planned to visit her. We had known Donna and Jack for many years since Joe had been very friendly with Jack when he was the associate director at MITs Center for Advanced Engineering Study.
    We want to express our sincere sympathy for your loss of this very lovely and talented woman. She will be missed us and by many people.

  4. Uncle Joey Federico Sr
    Jan 28 2018

    Growing up as a neighbor in Orient Ave Donna would always call me “Uncle Joey”. Donna & my niece Angela Federico were best friends and grew up together & remained best friends until Donna’s passing.

    Although we were not related my memory of her as a child playing with Angela has a special place in my heart & to know that little girl grew up to create a lifetime of great accomplishments to make us a better world is truly remarkable & amazing. Rest in peace.

    My condolences to Anne & Mario may God bless you.
    Uncle Joey

  5. daniel f. babine
    Jan 28 2018

    When I read of Donna’s passing, many good memories of my childhood flashed through my mind. I worked for her father Guy as a very young man. Her father and I remained friends until his passing. Many times I also helped in her uncle’s campaigns. Donna and I met occasionally at different places, always spoke of “the old days”. As I think about her being gone, I feel a vacuum in my heart. She was truly a good person. My condolences are extended to Anne and Mario, also to her partner Harvey. May she rest in peace.

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