The Right Stuff: Donna F. Tuttle’s vast experience suits her well for leadership positions.

December 30, 2015
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Strategist. Diplomat. Fundraiser. Leader. A board chair must play many roles, and Donna F. Tuttle has adeptly risen to this challenge both as former chair of the Saint John’s Health Center Foundation board of trustees and current chair of the Health Center’s local board of directors. With experience ranging from teaching in a Watts classroom to briefing the president of the United States on security issues, Donna brings unique expertise and abundant personal strengths to her roles at Saint John’s. (The security briefings took place in “The Bubble,” a top-secret room in the basement of the White House: "It’s the only place in the White House that cannot be penetrated,” Donna says, “so the Soviets were not able to overhear our conversations there.”)

Donna’s early career centered around political fundraising. She served as finance chair for numerous California campaigns, beginning with then Lt. Governor Mike Curb’s bid for governor and including gubernatorial campaigns for Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Her talent eventually landed her in Washington, D.C., where she served as Deputy Secretary and Undersecretary of Commerce during President Ronald Reagan’s term. One of the highlights of that time involved briefing the president prior to his trip to Russia to meet with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev; no president had ever gone to Russia before this.

After her time in politics, Donna was hired to run advertising agency N.W. Ayer’s western division, renamed Ayer Tuttle with her arrival. Her knowledge of branding would later serve her well at Saint John’s.

Now with her husband, David Elmore, Donna is a co-owner of Elmore Sports Group, which manages sports and entertainment events, venues and concessions. The company built the stadium that hosted the 2002 Olympic hockey games in Utah, and owns the Inland Empire 66ers, the Angels’ Class A team.

The couple’s professional and leisure activities tend to revolve around their many business enterprises, which also include serving as agent for Olympics tickets and managing the U.S. venues for Gold Cup Soccer. And they are dedicated to their combined five children, 15 grandchildren and one great grandchild.

A native Californian, Donna first encountered Saint John’s Health Center when she gave birth to her children here more than three decades ago. She never forgot the kind and compassionate care she received.

“The Foundation is not just a fundraising entity. Working together with physicians and hospital leadership, the Foundation has decision-making authority in all strategic endeavors. This is an unusual approach and one that’s proven very effective.” – Donna F. Tuttle

In 1994 Donna became a Foundation trustee at the invitation of William K. Hummer, MD, a life member of the Saint John’s Health Center Foundation board of trustees and the physician who delivered her two daughters.

“I get to know my patients well, and we became social friends,” says Dr. Hummer. “I quickly saw how tremendously capable Donna is—she could run General Motors if she had to.”

He adds, “Her coming aboard was the best thing for Saint John’s. We can’t place a value on the time and talent she has given to the hospital over the years.”

As chair of the Foundation board for three years, Donna helped broaden the group’s demographics by bringing in younger members and more women. She also increased the Foundation’s role and decision-making powers in the Health Center’s strategic planning.

“The Foundation is not just a fundraising entity. Working together with physicians and hospital leadership, the Foundation has decision-making authority in all strategic endeavors. This is an unusual approach and one that’s proven very effective,” she says.

Now Donna is helming the Health Center board at an exciting time of growth.

“The future is very bright,” she says. “Providence has been a strong partner in recruiting top physicians and developing centers of excellence such as our neuroscience, heart and prostate centers. They have been very generous in putting money into the hospital. Our task is to keep adding to and growing our program.”

Donna noted that Saint John’s is currently involved in a major effort to further enhance its breast center so it can offer a ful spectrum of care for breast cancer in one location. A nationwide search for the director of this program is currently underway.

Plans for south campus development include a new building for the John Wayne Cancer Institute, space for ambulatory care and research, an education and conference center, and visitor housing.

As exhilarating as the Health Center’s physical developments are, Donna says that what most excites her about Saint John’s are its physicians. “They’re very different. As I like to say, other major hospitals in Los Angeles may have great doctors, but we have great doctors with heart. They get to know you. They live in the neighborhood. They become your social friends.”

She continues: “Not only are they amazing in their warmth and in their areas of medical expertise, but they know how to run a hospital. We have more physicians on the board than ever before. Many are trustees. This is an unusual arrangement that benefits everyone.”

“Saint John’s is a special health care center,” she adds. “My goal is to preserve that culture and history and spirit. It’s the people who make a difference.”