David Umansky ’84
“[Crossroads] was exciting, filled with people who had a passion for education. Its unconventional nature made it even more inspiring.”
Crossroads had just two buildings and 54 students in the seventh grade when David Umansky started. “It was exciting, filled with people who had a passion for education,” he recalls. “Its unconventional nature made it even more inspiring.”
Over the past three decades, he’s carried that passion and the principles of community service gained at Crossroads into his education and career choices.
He majored in Law in Society at the University of California, Santa Barbara, then went on to earn an MBA in finance and international business from New York University. Facing a tough economy, he felt fortunate to get a job as vice president of marketing at a big bank, but discovered he didn't share its mission. Entrepreneurial by nature, he co-founded Expert Ease Software Inc., a developer of software products for the legal industry.
The company did well, but David wanted to use his business skills to impact the public sector. In 2002, he found that intersection as co-founder and CEO of Civic Builders, which provides turnkey real estate solutions for high-performing charter schools in underserved areas of need.
Civic Builders has renovated or built 22 schools in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and, increasingly, across the Northeast. “I love that we make a difference in communities and in children’s lives,” says David, who received the Social Entrepreneurship Award from the Manhattan Institute in 2010.
Civic Builders’ stats are impressive. Its schools bring quality education to some 11,000 students a year. About 98 percent graduate high school and 94 percent of graduating seniors are accepted to college. Civic Builders recently started a college scholarship fund as well.
David finds deep satisfaction in helping to create “inspiring buildings.” Many of the schools also house community centers and health care centers. In 2015, the organization debuted its first project to feature affordable housing, in East Harlem. Armed with his experience at a small, untraditional school in Santa Monica, where learning took place in two buildings and an Alley, he says, “I’m aware quality education can happen anywhere.”