Featured Alumnus: David M. Jack ’75
It is often the case for alumni to have their time at Avon Old Farms serve as a launchpad for their future career. In the case of David Jack ’75, he’s had three distinct careers since walking through Alumni Gate, and he says the seeds for all three were planted in part at Avon.
Jack arrived at Avon in the fall of his sophomore year after hearing George M. Trautman H’90, P’75, ’81, ’83, GP’03 speak at his graduation from the Rectory School. He admits he wasn’t the best student when he first arrived. “I don’t even know if I was an average student when I got to Avon.”
That’s when Sidney Clark H’65, a legendary teacher for so many Avonians, took Jack under his wing. “I had so many amazing teachers, but Sid, he saw something in me I didn’t see in myself. This was a man that rarely gave out an ‘A’, but he encouraged me and made me a better reader and writer. Then I realized, if I can improve this much in his class, I can do the same in my other classes. It was because of him that I went from being a weak student to graduating 6th in my class.” In fact, Jack went on to receive the “Most Improved Student” award from Mr. Trautman himself.
This achievement is a great source of pride for Jack, because he recognizes how impressive the rest of the class of 1975 was. He wrestled alongside Lewis du Pont Smith ’75 who went on to win a national championship and was eventually inducted into the AOF Athletic Hall of Fame. Also on the team were Don Gallup ’75, who was memorialized in the most recent edition of the Avonian, and Richard “Woody” Woodwell ’75, who died a hero during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “Compared to those guys, I’m just another classmate. We had a really special class. I also feel like that was a transition period for the school. Avon really started to come into its own, and now it’s one of the most highly regarded prep schools in the country.”
Jack certainly played his part in the school’s evolution. While he enjoyed his time on the wrestling and riflery teams, his primary passion was music. At the time, there weren’t many extracurriculars aside from sports and community service, so Jack formed a music club that served as a sort of precursor to the robust music program that Avon offers today. “I’m very proud of that. We had a band that played at dances and in local clubs. My senior photo shows me behind the drums,” Jack shares. “It warms my heart to see such amazing music, theater, and arts programs the school has now. When I saw the recording studio for the first time, years ago, I was blown away—and envious!”
He spent much of his time at Avon honing his musical abilities, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in music from Manhattanville College. Soon after, Jack began as a professional musician/drummer, studying under and collaborating with some of the biggest names in music. This includes legendary talent scout and CBS Records producer John Hammond, Principal Timpanist of the New York Philharmonic Roland Kohloff, and legendary performer and session drummer Dave Weckl. Jack was first signed to French music label Celluloid Records in 1982 where he performed on three tracks for the album, “Obsession,” featuring front man John Shirley, lyricist for Blue Oyster Cult. Jack was then signed to Epic Records in 1984 by Hammond, the man who discovered Billy Holliday, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among many others.
Throughout the 1980’s, Jack spent much of his time in the studio and performing at some of the most iconic venues in the tri-state area. He toured live with the Del Vikings before moving away from the music industry in 1992 when his daughter, Emily, was born. In 1996, his son, Gregory followed.
For his second career, Jack decided to put the writing and business communication skills he had garnered at Avon to work in the media industry. He began at Gannett Newspapers and worked his way up from the local circulation department to national advertising where he won three Top National Salesperson Awards and Salesperson of the Year in 1996. He was quick to recognize how the internet might go on to change this field, so he migrated to the digital side of the business. From 1999 through 2014, Jack worked for start-ups and corporations like Omnicom, Yahoo! and Time Inc. in senior sales roles. His last role was as VP of National Sales for Chicken Soup for the Soul, which got him interested in publishing.
Once again, Sid Clark’s influence would come into play as Jack started a new publishing company, Sightline Media Entertainment, LLC in 2014 and a children’s book publishing imprint called “Sam’s Young Readers”, named after his first dog. He had already completed a children’s writing certification at the Institute of Children’s Literature and his novel writing certification at the Institute for Writers.
Since then, he has written six children’s books; The Furnace Room (2015), The Treehouse Adventure (2016), Lila’s Dream (2017), Everybody Needs a Beast (2018), The Promise (2019), and Where Is My Home? (2020). The book Everybody Needs a Beast earned him the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Gold Medal in 2019. He also writes screenplays and ghostwrites and edits books for other publishers, including Fast Life – Let’s Go, endorsed by NASCAR Champion Derek DeBoer.
Jack has six more books written but he says he’s holding off on publishing while he focuses on two things—his family, as he recently became a grandfather, and his charity work, which focuses on children’s literacy. He says the core of why he writes children’s books and advocates for literacy stems back to 5th grade when he and his parents found out he had a 2nd grade reading level. This put him further behind his classmates in all subjects. Luckily, his parents were able to send him to the Rectory School where he began to catch up to his peers. Then Sid Clark and Avon helped push him over the edge.
He says Clark instilled in his students the notion that everything in literature and life alike boils down to love and passion. “Sid emphasized great note taking, understanding the classics, and made his students debate and think critically. I still have my notes from his class in my closet. Fortunately, I was able to thank him at our 25th reunion. I remember sitting next to him on the bleachers watching the reunion weekend football game and talking the whole time. He passed away just three years afterwards. Because of him, reading and writing went from my weakness to my strength.”
A passion and skill for writing isn’t all Jack got during his time at Avon. He says that while he didn’t really appreciate it as a student, he now recognizes how important it is to help others. “At Avon, they were always talking about giving to others, even beyond community service. I realize now how important service is. In fact, our Rotary Club motto is ‘Service Above Self.’ We need more schools like Avon in today’s world. It’s nice to have a bastion of morality.”
Jack and his wife, Tammy, recently relocated to Florida where he carries out a lot of his charity work with local organizations like the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch and Tidewell Hospice where his focus lately has been assisting at-risk children and their families deal with grief following the loss of a loved one.
He visited Avon frequently before moving, but says he still looks forward to future reunions, especially his upcoming 50th in 2025. “It goes by so fast. I told the other guys in my class, that we’ll be at the end of that alumni parade one day. I’m looking forward to holding up our class banner.”