By Stacey Dresner
Maxim Umansky was the first person in his family to be born in the United States.
His mother and her parents arrived from Moscow in 1993. His father and his family emigrated from Kiev, Ukraine in 1979, and were assisted in settling into the community by the greater Hartford Jewish community.
“I feel fortunate to be a part of the first generation to be born in the U.S. in my family,” said Umansky, who lives in Avon. “I am very glad for the opportunities and experiences I was given that wouldn’t have happened anywhere else on Earth.”
In June, Umansky graduated from Avon High School – and also was named the inaugural recipient of the Jay Fishman Memorial Scholarship, a fund established in 2016 through the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford (JCF). The fund was established in memory of Jay Fishman, the New Jersey-based former chief executive officer of Travelers Insurance, who died in August of 2016 after a battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) – aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Besides building Travelers into one of the most successful companies in the U.S. insurance industry, Fishman was known for his philanthropy, including spearheading Travelers’ efforts to provide educational and career opportunities to underrepresented students.
“The scholarship was created as a lasting remembrance of Jay that attempts to capture many of the dimensions that characterized him – his love of Travelers and its employees, his embodiment of Jewish values which shaped his behavior and worldview, his commitment to education, the combination of head and heart that defined his leadership and multiple philanthropic endeavors,” David Miller, a colleague and friend of Fishman and a former chairman of the JCF board, told the Ledger.
The fund will be awarded to Jewish applicants pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in business or non-profit management, with priority given to applicants employed by the Travelers and/or their children. Umansky’s mother, Anna, is a director in claims finance at Travelers. His father Vlad, a graphic designer, also works at Travelers.
“It makes me very proud that my son is the first recipient of the Jay Fishman Memorial Scholarship,” Anna Umansky told the Ledger. “This scholarship not only helped Maxim financially but also allowed him the opportunity to meet great people like David Miller and Mike Elfenbaum [director of grants programs at JCF], as well as members of Travelers’ leadership team. I also think it reinforced the moral values of my son and I am grateful for that.”
Umansky, who served as goalie on both his school and the FSA FC Elite Club soccer teams, helping to lead both teams to state championships, is also an active community volunteer, he has worked on the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, the Special Olympics and Habitat for Humanity.
“Getting out and helping the community makes me feel good, and to me helping others is very important,” he said.
The Relay for Life was a particularly important organization for him to get involved with.
“One of my best friends was diagnosed with cancer,” he said. “I began to be much more involved and ultimately it was a life-changing event for me that made me a better person.”
All of his hard work and desire to give back to the community are what made him stand out to the JCF scholarship committee.
He received the award on June 12 at the Travelers office in Hartford. Attending were his parents and 14-year-old brother, Mitchell; Alan Schnitzer, CEO of Traveler’s; Brian MacLean, president and COO of Travelers; David Miller; and a crowd of Travelers employees.
“It was a great honor to be the first recipient of this award. It made me understand how fortunate I am and how hard work will shortly begin to pay off in life,” Umansky said.
In the fall the young man will attend Siena College in Albany, New York, where he plans to major in actuarial science.
Umansky said he had been aware of who Jay Fishman was because his mother worked at Travelers, and found out more about him after he was diagnosed with ALS. What he learned inspired him.
“I hope one day to be as successful as he was,” said Umansky. “If there is one thing I would like to have in common with him is my determination to be the best.”
CAP: Maxim Umansky is congratulated for receiving the Jay Fishman Memorial Scholarship under the famous red umbrella at the Hartford Travelers office. Shown here in the front row, from left, are Alan Schnitzer, Travelers CEO; Maxim Umansky, his mother, Anna Umansky; Brian MacLean, Travelers president and COO; and David Miller, immediate past chair of JCF. Back row, from left, Maxim’s brother and father, Mitchell and Vlad Umansky.