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Oct 06, 2020 Alumni News EXPLO Today

Lessons for a Lifetime: A Tribute to David Summergrad (1953-2020)

David Summergrad was a lifelong educator whose career as a teacher, principal, and college professor impacted innumerable lives.

Communications Staff

It is often said that actions speak louder than words. And while David Summergrad may have been soft-spoken, his legacy as an educator, principal, leader, and advocate is a barbaric yawp that echoes across generations of students, colleagues, and friends.

A mentor to scores of educators and administrators not just at EXPLO but throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond, David is remembered as much for his humility, his humanity, his relentless commitment to social justice as he is for his love of animal crackers and margaritas, and his signature red Chuck Taylors. After his unexpected passing on September 24, we asked EXPLO staff members to share their memories of David, whose understated presence always made a lasting impression. 

On those iconic red sneakers:

Donning those shoes got his audience to pay attention but more importantly, served as a reminder to himself that he was stepping into a persona that demanded his own fortified confidence and full attention. He acknowledged that those things didn't always come easily to him. As I reflect on his passing, I'm thinking about that conversation and where, in my own life, I need to don David's proverbial red shoes and step up to the plate to make the world a bit better.

— Elliot Targum, Head of Programs (Grades 8-10)

A Humble Leader:

David brought me to EXPLO and made sure I stuck around. He showed me what leadership can be and more importantly allowed me to grow in that leadership with him by my side. I learned from him and I leaned on him. His humility inspired me. (His to-do lists confused me.) He made me a better educator, collaborator, and human being.

— Meghan O’Leary, Assistant Director of Curriculum (Grades 8-10)

David is responsible for helping so many educators, myself included, to find the beauty and immense joy that comes from teaching despite the grueling time, energy, and challenges. He was a leader in every sense of the word and did so with an elegance and humility that is unparalleled. He loved animal crackers and margaritas.

— Casey Howard, Associate Director of Admission

About Those To-Do Lists…

I will forever miss the cryptic one-word sticky notes left on my desk with an idea, task, suggestion, solution, or query for me to pursue. One carefully chosen word was plenty to convey an entire message, assuming you could decipher the handwriting. His brilliance as a mentor and productivity as a human was tied up in a special shorthand and his wry humor.

— Ariel French, Registrar 

“Do The Right Thing”:

We've lost so many important giants in the fight this year, and David is certainly among them. This time of inconceivable loss of our civil rights and social justice leaders is saddening and can be discouraging. But now it's our chance to show them that we listened, we took notes, and we are eager and honored to pick up their batons and keep pushing forward. We must do that for David. We have to carry on his legacy.

— Candace Garnes, Program Coordinator

David freely offered his time, advice and support to just about anyone that needed a listening ear, a shoulder, a hand, or that nudge toward achieving their goals.  Again, and again, David shared his seemingly endless wealth of knowledge and resources, and his passion for education and social justice.  His legacy has inspired generations of life-long learners and emboldened spirits striving to help others and “do the right thing” in this world.  

— Shannon Times, Office of Teaching + Learning Assistant (Grades 8-10)


At the request of David’s family, expressions of sympathy may be made in his memory to the ACLU, Black Lives Matter, or another education or social justice organization of your choosing. 

Communications Staff