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Looking at the pieces of the late Don Diamond's legacy in Tucson

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Ashlee Salamon | The Daily Wildcat Ashlee Salamon/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Donald Diamond, one of the most influential entrepreneur leaders in Tucson, died last Monday, March 25, at the age of 91. 

Diamond was a well-known real-estate developer and supporter of the University of Arizona, where he attended and met his wife Joan in the late 1940s. Over the years, the couple made generous contributions to the school in numerous areas such as the Eller College of Management, the athletics department, fine arts and education.

Diamond Children's Medical Center bears his name, as he was the major donor behind the University-Banner Medical Center’s pediatric hospital. He donated $15 million to the establishment.

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Diamond and his wife also invested in the UA Steele Children’s Research Center and lung research, due to their daughter Deanne passing away at age 14 in 1971 from asthma medication that damaged her heart. 

However, Dr. Andreas Theodorou, vice chair of the UA Department of Pediatrics and chief educator of the Banner - University Medical Group, said the Diamond family’s support goes beyond the millions in donations that helped build the hospital.

“It was not just a name on a building just because someone gave a lot of money,” Theodorou said. “It was about a person committed, about a family committed, who sees something bigger, better, long-lasting for the kids in our community.”

Theodorou knew Diamond for a decade professionally from the project and would describe Diamond as a “bigger than life” person, a “big personality” that could be both funny and serious.

“It’s very hard to step in any part of the Tucson community and see his influence,” Theodorou said. “Some of it is not obvious, because it doesn’t always have his name on it, but when you talk to people in the community, you’ll find out that Don Diamond had impacted their life in some way.”

Another group Diamond was deeply involved in was the Jewish community. Diamond was once on the advisory board for the UA Arizona Center for Judaic Studies, which he also helped fund.

The director of the center, J. Edward Wright, personally knew Diamond for over 20 years. 

“I would describe him as a visionary,” Wright said. “The kind of person that has a vision of what to be and the ability to bring people together to make that happen.”

Wright said Diamond strived for excellence in his life and he wanted the Arizona Center and Jewish community to be excellent.

“Also, he expected the University to be excellent,” Wright said. “I can’t even count on the many things on campus that he supported.”

Wright said Diamond, together with his wife, was always so supportive.

“They walked hand in hand,” Wright said. “It was a marvel to watch … Joan was supportive in word and deed, always positive and always ready with the words of encouragement at just the right time.”

In 2010, Diamond and Joan were awarded the UA Alumni Achievement Award.

Joan Diamond died in 2016. The couple is survived by their two daughters, Helaine Levy and Jennifer Diamond. Helaine is the executive director of Diamond Family Philanthropies and currently sits on a number of boards, including the University of Arizona Foundation. The elder sister, Jennifer, is a rabbi who officiated his memorial ceremony on last Wednesday afternoon.

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On the legacy of Don Diamond:

"The kids that have already been treated there and will continued to be treated there create a never-ending legacy to help children when they needed the most, and even bigger than that, helping families when they needed it the most.” — Dr. Theodorou

“In Judaism, there is a saying of 'Tikkun Olam,' and it means “Repairing the World.” The world has any number of problems. Don Diamond and Joan worked to repair the damages in our world — to repair a broken world and make it a better place.” — Wright


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