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In memory of...
Jack Newcomb
Associate Director of Pioneering Video Facility

By Bob Lamm

The February 9 edition of the Boston Herald reported that Jack Newcomb, the former Associate Director of the MIT Center for Advanced Engineering Study (CAES), died on November 27. He was 59.

MIT’s video production facility was a pioneer in the field of educational technology. With roots back to the 1960's program MIT Science Reporter (the show's host, John Fitch, was program producer at CAES) and WGBH’s original location across the street from MIT (where the Student Center is today), CAES pioneered in producing educational and even interactive video in the 1970's.

During Mr. Newcomb's tenure, MIT-CAES built a broadcast-quality 2" facility with two studios, three edit rooms, a technically-innovative bidirectional cable TV system that extended across the entire campus and a post-graduate video education program (with a special custom-designed automatic taping facility) that provided continuing education services to local corporations via videotape. Mr Newcomb directed the day-to-day operations under Director Myron Tribus. Many former employees remember Mr. Newcomb as a very practical man who was the true decision-maker in the organization.

Many people in the industry began their careers there, including the engineers at several New York and Boston post houses, one of the scriptwriters for the Golden Girls, as well as many of the movers and shakers in the New England video technology industry.

Mr. Newcomb was born and raised in Lawrence, MA. He joined MIT as a research assistant in the Magnet Laboratory in 1962 and rose through a variety of administrative positions , including Special Assistant to MIT President Howard Johnson. He played a pivotal role in the negotiation of the first bargaining unit for MIT service workers and in establishing the Quarter Century Club, the association of long-term MIT employees. He was a charter trustee of the MIT Community Service Fund, which provides financial support to MIT students.

He also served on Gov. Michael Dukakis' Advisory Committee on Corrections during the late 1970s and was cited in 1978 for outstanding community leadership by the International Halfway House Association for his efforts developing work-site training programs.

After leaving MIT in 1986, he opened the John E. Newcomb Associates consulting firm, specializing in quality-management consulting. Its clients included Bulova, Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Rolls Royce. He helped Endicott College in Beverly to develop a curriculum on the principles of quality management and traveled the world as a lecturer and consultant, conducting courses, workshops and seminars on quality management principles applied by governments and businesses to ensure continuous improvement in service delivery and product manufacturing.

Fluent in French, Spanish and Italian, Mr. Newcomb was retained by the French parliament to help develop national quality guidelines and by the People's Republic of China to help create a center for technology and quality. He was also a lecturer for professional societies such as the American Society of Quality Control, and the American Chamber of Commerce.

In 1995, he and his wife opened La Prima Donna Italian cuisine shop and catering service in Swampscott. It has received more than a dozen local regional awards for culinary excellence. He was a corporator of the North Shore Music Theatre and a member of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Newcomb is survived by his wife, Donna Lee (Umana); his mother, Theresa of Lawrence; three sisters and four brothers.

Bob Lamm is Manager at CYNC Corp. and a former employee at MIT CAES. He can be reached at 617-277-4317,

Posted: March 2001
Bob Lamm, SMPTE/New England Newsletter/Web Page Editor