He was a towering figure among the giants assembled by Eugene Hanson at the Fine Arts Department of Coronado High School in Scottsdale, including Robert Frazier and Joseph Gatti. In those days, Scottsdale taxpayers happily funded public education. Coronado built one of the most respected fine arts programs in the nation. While other schools had a "senior play," we had seven or eight productions a year in the glory days of the 1970s, when I was blessed to be a student. These included a major musical and spring repertory, with productions at a level of sophistication and skill that could match university or professional theater. This was in no small part because of Jim Newcomer.
He drove a little red Beetle — one always knew he was on the job when it was parked behind the big roll-up door at the rear of the auditorium, even on weekends. He kept company with an enormous St. Bernard named Hildegard.
As the senior theater arts teacher, he taught acting as well as technical theater (lighting, set design and construction, props, costuming, makeup, etc.) Working in the stunning performance space designed by famed Phoenix architect Ralph Haver, we were repeatedly told by Newcomer that we might never again work in such an excellent facility. He was right. Most Broadway theaters were dumps. Plays at ASU were performed in the former college boiler room, the Lyceum Theater.
Newcomer was charismatic and striking, a tall man with a booming voice and laugh, a beard and long legs that splayed out whenever he sat down. Even the shyest student could find a place in Coronado theater, be it in property management or costuming. Yet all were a part of an enterprise that was demanding and professional. Excellence was Newcomer's true north and he got it.