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Ralph Z. Manna

December 1, 1936 - March 14, 2019

Former Communications Specialist and Broadway Executive Zack “Ralph” Manna passed away quietly on Thursday, March 14, 2019, in his Manhattan, N.Y., home after a year-long battle with cancer.

Born Ralph Manna on Dec. 1, 1936, in Altoona, he was the son of Frank and Rose (Bruno) Manna.

After graduating from Altoona High School, Mr. Manna attended the College of the Holy Cross to study English literature. He then attended Penn State University and served in the ROTC. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he served in the U.S. Army as a communications corpsman, actively working at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Mr. Manna then went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts in film from New York University and then a Master of Business Administration from Pace University.

His illustrative communications career began at AT&T in 1965 as a public relations copywriter. He quickly rose through the ranks to director of the company’s corporate advertising and events marketing department. As such, he became one of the most influential people in American theatre. By developing “AT&T: On Stage,” he supported dozens of projects across the country and led AT&T to become the largest corporate contributor to nonprofit theatre in the United States.

His groundbreaking philanthropical programming helped support AT&T’s sponsorship of Disney’s Spaceship Earth at Epcot Center, Frank Galati’s adaptation of “Grapes of Wrath” at the Steppenwolf Theater Co. and Broadway’s “Once on this Island,” as well as the visual arts with exhibits such as 1988’s David Hockney retrospective – just to name a few.

After retiring from AT&T, Mr. Manna went on to pursue his passion for the arts by working for theatre organizations. He served as associate producer for the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., in the early 1990s. He then went on to work with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS as the group’s director of operations and then its executive director in 1994. In the late 1990s, he served as director of the David Merrick Arts Foundation (a non-profit theatre production unit) and served on its board of directors. In addition, he continued to share his expertise by consulting internationally and lecturing at local universities. Mr. Manna also served on the board for Parsons Dance Co. in New York City. Later in life, Mr. Manna adapted the screenplay for stage and was credited as a lyricist for Cole Porter’s “The Pirate” in its Philadelphia Off-Broadway premiere in 2006.

His love of the theatre and dedication to helping the arts thrive drove Mr. Manna’s successful career and made him happiest. If he was not at the theatre or consulting with a theatre organization, he was either talking or reading about them.

Surviving are a brother, John of New Castle; a daughter, Erin Armstrong and two grandsons, all of Philadelphia; and nieces and nephews.

In addition to his parents, Mr. Manna was preceded in death by a brother, Joseph.

Friends will be received from 8:30 until the 10 a.m. Mass on Monday, April 1, 2019, at Santella Funeral Home. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Monday, April 1, 2019, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, 806 11th St., Altoona. Committal will follow at Calvary Cemetery.

Because of his love of the arts, the family is requesting in lieu of flowers, donations be made in the name of Zack Manna to your favorite arts organizations.