Alumni Profile: David Youmans ‘75
By: Christen Bell
David Youmans ’75 remembers vividly the welcoming atmosphere, sense of community and various personalities that drew him to join The Rensselaer Society of Engineers (RSE.) In addition to the unique, centrally located and accommodating house, Youmans remembers it feeling like a good place to call “home” on campus.
“It was very, very welcoming,” Youmans recalls. “They participated in activities that were interesting to me and the house has a tremendous location centrally on the campus.”
Work Ethic in Education and Fraternity Life
Youmans ’75 majored in biomedical engineering graduating in May 1975 and achieved his master’s in business administration (MBA) shortly after in January 1976. His quick path to his MBA is a testament to his natural work ethic, a characteristic that continued to be honed at RSE. Thanks to advanced placement (AP) courses, he had a head start on his undergraduate years and was able to utilize his junior and senior year to begin doubling up on courses to work toward his MBA. He took courses the summer after his May 1975 graduation – staying in the blissfully hot RSE house sans air conditioning – and did his final semester in fall 1975.
His work ethic was put to the test at the RSE house in addition to his RPI education. Since RSE has no national organization, all of the work in caring for the real estate fell to the members. Members managed all of the house needs including finances, cleaning and house maintenance.
“That was another unique thing that drew me to RSE. The house and the organization really truly belonged to the people in it,” Youmans says.
A Successful Career
After his time at RPI and RSE, Youmans was launched into a successful career working primarily in the medical device industry – a perfect match for his RPI education. The vast majority of his career he worked at Johnson and Johnson holding a variety of different positions in various locations. His career path led him to managing multidisciplinary teams. The team members each had their own direct reports, meaning he had no authority over them as an employer. He directly correlates his success in that area to the skills he developed in his time at RSE.
“The thing I took away most from RSE was how to motivate and manage and challenge a team that doesn’t work directly for you,” Youmans says. “It’s leading a multidisciplinary team and motivating them and pushing them to make progress where I don’t have direct authority.”
Youmans recalls his pledge class coming together as a very strong team, but without necessarily having a “team leader.” They could each understand and get behind a project knowing that each member brought a certain skillset to the table.
“Motivating those kinds of teams is what I learned most from RSE,” Youmans says.
Youmans also utilized those skills as the executive committee chairman for two years. He served on the committee with various officers, the president and vice president, none who reported to him. It was their job to come together, evaluate what went wrong, decide on disciplinary action and carry it out.
A Sense of Well-Being
As Youmans looks back at his time at RPI, he can clearly see that he took more with him than a good education because of his time at RSE. He recently read a quote from a 2014 gallup poll: “…fraternity and sorority members are more likely than all other college graduates to be thriving in each of the five elements of well-being (purpose, physical, social, financial, and community).”
“That was certainly the case for me,” Youmans says. “At the time in RPI it was very easy to get lost in education and studying, and trying to do well in school. What RSE brought for me was realizing there are other things besides that and they are very, very important.”
Dave Youmans ‘75