In Memoriam: Frederick H. Wandelt III ’66
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My family and I were overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up for Ferdie's memorial on Saturday and realized after viewing the "guest book" that, although we did get to see many of you to thank personally, there were many we didn't.
So please know that if we didn't get a chance to see you, my family and I were so grateful that you were there with us to celebrate Ferdie's life. It was a special day for all of us and for Taft.
—Joanna Wandelt, Allison and Christopher, Class of '91 and '96, Watertown, CT
10/1/2013 2:41:53 PM
“Walk With Me”…..
In 1962 some alumni and Len Sargent must have gotten to Joe Cunningham, because in came the advent of a stream of hockey players from Princeton Country Day (PCD). Two of their great athletes were Colie Donaldson, with whom I shared a room in the “glass palace”, and Ferdie. All of us were 14 years old, were about 5’4” , and each of us weighed maybe 135 lbs. We were so small that our Athletic Director suggested holding us back from the Varsity team in our Lower Mid year so that none of us were injured before we even got started with our hockey careers at Taft. Lance was teaching Russian History at the time, but you could feel his inevitable ascendancy to Varsity Hockey coach. In the meantime, the hockey team’s feeds and the blaring cowboy ballads belted out from Sarge's record player and apartment even out did Oscie’s more refined events.
The 60s were tough times. Kennedy’s and King’s assassination, the Chicago riots, Kent State, Vietnam, and the lottery draft system that sent you there. The hockey players from the Class of ‘66 had a lot to do. In addition to the homework, papers and exams, to round out your Taft experience there was the expectation that one should participate in 3 or 4 other group activities on campus. In addition, the hockey team was to produce a Championship season; and if invited, beat St. Paul’s at Madison Square Garden, and then go on to win The Lawrenceville Invitational Hockey Tournament in Princeton just before Christmas.
We were also assigned the task of volunteering to refurbish our beloved May’s Rink. Many of us alums think that Mays, even in 2013, is the best sheet of ice we have skated on anywhere in the U.S. or Europe. I remember many late nights when Ferdie and all our teammates spent their nights securing the brine filled pipes with metal wire and then digging them into the frozen sand base. Upon the arrival of a new Zamboni, we took to repairing the holes in our plywood boards with a new facing material that we were told was a recycled material from the space program at Cape Canaveral. During that time we bolted dozens of panels onto the boards. Working with space program material seemed kind of cool, even though to this day, none us are certain that was true. Consequently, many of us made that walk up the hill to Mays Rink 6- 7 times a day to skate and to reconstruct our rink. Some of us ( Doug Johnson, Bob Adams. and yes, me), would look woefully as we passed Soccer Captain Ford and McKim sucking on his pipe at the Wade House in search of one last cigarette before Sarge’s merciless “stop and start” drills. During one of the those walks Ferdie said to a group of us, “Walk with me”. We said we WERE walking with him. But no, it really bothered him if all of us weren’t in tandem step. So without missing a beat, Ferdie would do this kind of intermittent skip which would get him in line with the rest of us marching up the icy hill to Mays. On one of those walks, Ferdie also decided to change my name. Coming from four generations of Guernseys at Taft, the rink being located on Guernseytown Road, and a father, a former Taft Hockey player named Peter, Class of ‘40, my real name was Peter Jr., but I was nicknamed Tony by my family for no other reason other than they liked the name. Ferdie decided that that was way too confusing a story, so he decided to call me, “T.” I never really thought about where I got “T” from until recently reflecting about Ferdie’s life. And then it clicked, it was a sign of Ferdie’s friendship, like walking in step with you.
Many tributes have been written about Ferds. Over the next 40 years, as Director of Admissions, every year in early spring Ferdie would call me up to check up on the candidates who had applied to Taft that year from communities from where I grew up- NYC, L.I., Westchester, and Greenwich. The conversation went something like this: “T:, So who do you like? Who’s high scorer? Who plays goalie in lacrosse? (remember Ferds was the Taft’s lacrosse team’s goalie which was also coached by Lance). And in visiting one of my children at Taft, if I passed his office without stopping in, he’d come running after me and say, “T, walk with me”. We’d walk (yes, we had to be in tandem) down to Bingham, and by the end of the stroll, he’d tell me who was coming to Taft next year. He was so proud, proud of the new Lower Mids and Mids coming in the fall. All of this was reflected by Ferdie’s ever present crooked smile. And if a candidate didn’t get in, if I wanted an academic or social report card about one of our children attending Taft, or a projection of how the hockey or lacrosse team will do in the upcoming year, we’d walk again.
All of our alumni have experienced this: if we knew someone applying to Taft, the first thing we’d recommend was that they meet Ferdie Wandelt. Late one spring afternoon, I was walking down a beach on Martha’s Vineyard, a beach often visited by Ferdie and Joanna with his childhood friend from Princeton (and excellent Exeter goaltender from PCD), Kevin Kennedy. Unexpectedly out of the fog in the distance came a person who I recognized as someone who had recently called me to ask about the possibility of their son interviewing at Taft. They spoke about a terrific visit… the Harley Robert’s room, the cute Mid who toured them, Lincoln’s shining nose, how much they loved Taft’s architecture and the buzz of the school. So I replied enthusiastically, “Is it your son’s first choice?” and the parent replied, “Hell no, Ferdie said he would admit the child to Taft, but it would be a struggle for him all four years. So he’s going to Salisbury.” This was classic Wandelt. He always did his job giving both objective and subjective advice to hundreds of parents and students who toured Taft. The man’s sensitivity was so acute, that he could size up a potential student in a matter of minutes. And if the student couldn’t go to Taft, Ferdie would take that extra step and advise a parent to the best of his knowledge where he thought their child was best suited to succeed. He wanted EVERY student to succeed in their education, to be part of Taft or any school in some meaningful way. I guess Ferdie and his admissions staff probably interviewed 10,000 applications over his regime, and admitted a couple of thousand students to Taft. I know that I have personally had more conversations with parents thanking me for Ferdie’s advice of where to apply elsewhere than from those whose sons (and eventually daughters) actually were admitted by his staff.
About 15 years ago, a member of my family died unexpectedly at age 44. I went to see Ferdie in Watertown, seeking advice, and to inform him of the bad news, that my nephew who he had accepted to Taft for the next year, could no longer attend Taft due to the new financial pressures created by his father’s death. He said: “T, walk with me”. And we walked out to the old Jig and back. He told me that tuition was the last thing that this widow should worry about. He had accepted my nephew at Taft, it was his first choice, and that was that. He was to come to Taft. That young man blossomed into a leader at Taft and went on to be Head Mon, because of Ferdie’s knowledge, skills, acumen, and personal investment. How did he know? I don’t know, but that is the person we grew to love as a student, roommate, goalie, teammate, Admissions Director, ambassador, educational leader, husband, father, grandfather, classmate, and friend.
Ferdie writes in his unpublished book, “what do we have to hold onto in death”? We have a lot. Your family, the memories, and the fact that the Class of ‘66 and all the Taft community can take solace in knowing that we are all better people for having known you. We all look forward to walking with you (yes, in tandem) down the path of another hallway, another rink, another field, at another time.
—Tony Guernsey, classmate and friend, Class of 1966
9/30/2013 10:17:55 AM
I didn't know Ferdie very well when I was at Taft. Our friendship grew in the last thirty years when I was living in Hong Kong and Shanghai. He dedicated his whole life to the pursuit of cultural diversity at Taft and was dearly loved by the Asian students and parents. He had a magic touch to make everyone feel so special and always kept us connected to Taft. Regrettably I am not able to attend his memorial service today. I will always remember his smile and special voice and be grateful to have shared wonderful memories together.
—Cassandra Pan, Class of 77, Pittsburgh, PA
9/28/2013 2:46:59 PM
Ferdie Wandelt was the first person I ever met from taft, and conducted my admissions interview back in 2000. To me, he represented everything that was good about the school - he was a man of honor, respect and integrity. I eventually chose him to be my advisor - and for Ferdie, advisees were family. I always thought that there was no better Ambassador for the values of the school. He will be sorely missed.
—Alex Britell, Ferdie was my advisor, Class of 2003, New York City
9/24/2013 3:47:19 PM
As so many have written, what a loss. Ferdie had such a way of putting people at ease. I largely volunteered in the Admissions Office because of Ferdie. I would find any excuse to hang out in the office. And then Ferdie would have a free moment and invite me (and others) to come sit in his office either to chat or to ask how a tour went with a prospective student. He made me feel that my opinion mattered and that I was truly part of the admissions process. His office was a haven. He made me feel safe, loved and secure. He always knew the right thing to say and how to rib me just enough to make me laugh and motivate me in the right direction. What a fabulous mentor - to so many.
As sad his passing is, I am so thankful that my son is at Taft now so that I have been able to connect with Ferdie in the past few years.
—Lelia Mellen, Propsective Tour Guide, Class of 82, Thetford Center, VT
9/24/2013 12:10:50 PM
I never met Ferdie before arriving on campus in1980 as a Lower Mid. But living in Saudi Arabia, my parents had to send my older sister Linda to a boarding school - she was the one who interviewed w Ferdie and then picked Taft. But then my parents, anxious about sending one child alone and so far away, asked if there was a place for me, and so I went too. Of course that changed my life. But when I finally met Ferdie, he never even had to ask my name - and we all know this was always the way with Ferdie: he remembered everyone, despite the enormous number of students and parents he met year after year... amazing. And then, in my senior year, I came to know Ferdie in another capacity - me and 3 others took a seminar class with him. Now, as far as I recall, it was the first time in quite awhile that Ferdie was again teaching. And one of the remarkable things, one of my cherished memories of this time was the way he treated the 4 of us: as adults, as equals. It was a serious class - he was serious - and we dealt with mature subject matter. That idea that our opinions were being considered an were of value was infectious. It was a great send-off into the post-high school world. Which is to say he made us know that we mattered. And he mattered to me and so many others before and after me.
—Madeline Djerejian, Alumnus, student, Class of 1984, New York, NY USA
9/22/2013 1:58:11 PM
I knew Ferdie less well than others who have posted. I interviewed with Ferdie late in the spring of 1973. It was a most unlikely meeting. My father had applied me long after the admissions season. Indeed, acceptances had been sent and what became the class of '77 was filled. I sat across from Ferdie after two other schools in three years, with a spotty record, zero athletic ability, and no connections of any kind with Taft. Yet Ferdie made me understand that he would rather be having this conversation with me than doing anything else. He was welcoming and encouraging. Ferdie championed my unlikely application and somehow a few weeks later he got me admitted. My father was very relieved and very grateful to Ferdie. 40 years later, I remain very grateful to Ferdie.
We all know from our non-Taft experiences that many admissions officers are understandably too overworked to see much of the students after they enroll. But Ferdie was very different. Throughout my time at Taft, we had frequent conversations -- in the halls, watching games, and in the occasional office visit for a much-appreciated pep talk. Ferdie was unfailingly warm, comforting, funny, and optimistic. He provided thoughtful, common-sense advice, always with a smile and that inimitable twinkle in his eyes. Ferdie always had the words or the pat on the back to make me believe that I was a worthy person and could face life's challenges. And the most remarkable part was that Ferdie was this way with everyone. He was a unique Taft treasure.
I have not met a more sincere and decent person. Ferdie was a mentsch.
—Richard Bernstein, Student at Taft for four years, Class of 1977, Bethesda, Maryland
9/22/2013 11:17:07 AM
Ferdie always said, "if the light is on, the door is open". He meant this both literally and figuratively. Ferdie was in so many ways a second father to me and my wife Lindsay. Virtually every endeavor I pursued as a faculty member was accompanied by the desire for Ferdie's approval, and when a job was well done, I could always expect a nice hand written note on my desk in the morning.only did he help, encourage and develop generations of students during his life, but he served as the best mentor a young professional could ever ask for. I am a better person today for knowing you Ferdie. And I will always carry the life lessons you taught me during my years as a mentee, colleague, and friend. We love and miss you.
Mike and Lindsay Aroesty
—Michael Aroesty, Faculty Member '03-'10, Admissions Office, Pittsburgh, PA
9/18/2013 10:09:32 PM
I love the way everyone wants to share that day, so significant, when each of us walked into Taft with our children and the first person we met was Ferdie. That is the stuff memories are made of.
He never wavered in his vision for Taft. Our condolences to his family, and to his huge Taft family. Nicky Johnson
—Nicky Johnson, Board member and parent of Christina '97, Senter '00, Greenwich, CT
9/18/2013 3:26:04 PM
I read the tributes others have posted and realize again what we all know about Ferdie: he had this unbelievable gift of allowing each of us to feel seen, heard, known in the deepest sense, treasured. I came to Taft because of Ferdie. I'm sure many of us did. Roxie, the Atwood's dog, was a close second on my list of reasons I liked Taft most of all but it was Ferdie that made it feel like a place that could be home from the second I met him. Within minutes of that interview starting, I was sharing my most closely held dreams and hopes and I knew they were being honored by the man across the large wooden desk. I am forever grateful to Joanna for all the nights I sat in a big chair and cried my way through mid-year, so lost and befuddled, and yet so believed in by Ferdie. "You go out there and be the best Firkins Reed you can be," that's what he always said to me, as I struggled to make sense of adolescence. I know he gave so many of us the same advice, instilled in us the same courage, and helped us grow, however slowly, the seeds of belief in ourselves. I am forever grateful to this great man for all he gave to me personally and to all the hundreds and hundreds of others whose lives he touched in the same way. Joanna, Alison, Christopher: thank you so much for sharing him with all of us. We are all sending you many prayers of love.
—Firkins Reed, Advisee, worked in Admissions Office '83-'85, Class of 1978, Natick, MA
9/16/2013 8:14:43 PM
Ferdie was a great friend and a terrific coach when Vanessa joined his team at Taft. Most of all Ferdie was really fun to be with and had a very personal engaging manner.
—Fred X Brownstein, Played lacross with Ferdie and remained friends. He coached Vanessa., Class of 1964, North Bennington, VT. USA
9/14/2013 10:52:21 AM
My first year, mid year, I was on Ferdie’s floor in HDT. I later served him as a prospective student tour guide until I graduated. He was a great guy and mentor to me.
I’ve been honoring and remembering Ferdie out here this year in my fundraiser swim: http;//www.swimacrossamerica.org/goto/familyandfriends
“Non ut sibi ministretur sed ut minister”--I started the SAA-Seattle event 5 years ago, this year we raised $250,000 and will have donated $1Million directly to research at SCCA/Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center. Research we fund has application to therapies used in the area of fighting cancer that Ferdie died from, Leukemia Lymphoma. SAA is based in Boston and has 16 events nationwide.
Ferdie was always someone I sought out when at the school for Alumni reunions. I’m glad to have had the good fortune to have known him, he was a big part of Taft for me.
—David Day, Class of 75, Seattle, WA
9/13/2013 4:12:48 PM
If it hadn't been for Ferdie, my life would be very different right now. After applying and interviewing at who knows how many schools, it was only Ferdie that was able to bring something out of me in the interview. I ddn't know how these things worked...not that my English was bad, just that I didn't understand the process. I didn't know I was supposed to mention I was the #2 ranked tennis player in my age group in Mexico. Or that I spoke a bunch of different languages. But he somehow got me, just like he was able to 'get' everyone that came his way. I rarely bumped into him while at Taft, and never saw him after graduation, but forever will my memories of Taft be linked to Ferdie. Thanks for changing my life!
—Roberto Donati, Alumnus, Class of 83, Mexico City
9/12/2013 8:20:02 PM
The tears have not stopped. I can’t believe he is gone. As my son, Pierre, said to me: “Dad, Ferdie helped me in my difficult transition away from Taft and he followed me all the way through to my acceptance at Kenyon. He didn’t have to do that. But he did.”
Ferdie fervently embraced Mr. Taft’s “whole boy philosophy.” And he lived it with thousands of Tafties. He was Taft’s “Mr. Chips” and to say good-bye to him comes with such great sorrow. Taft shall not see the like of him again.
—Ray DuBois, friend of 50 years, my fellow co-captain of the first undefeated (in school boy competition) varsity lacrosse team, Class of 1966, Washington, DC
8/28/2013 3:33:00 PM
How shocked and saddened we were to hear about the death of Ferdie Wandelt. Ferdie's kindness, thoughtfulness and concern for our son, Alexander - both in admitting him to the Class of '03 and supporting him in his endeavors at Taft will always be a strong memory. How vividly we remember driving a 14 year old Alex to his interview at Taft and the great meeting he had with Ferdie. And how very proud Ferdie was when Alex was named Salutatorian of the Class of '03. I know for the Britell family one of the high points of our years at Taft was our relationship with the Wandelts. We will miss you, Ferdie, you were one of a kind.
—Andrea Britell, Mother of Alexander '03, wife of Peter '59, Class of 03, Westport, Connecticut
8/28/2013 11:40:44 AM
Mr. Freddie Wandelt was one of the people you put in a the category of a great man. I was a post graduate student at Taft and he was one of the first faces I saw when I walk into the main halls daily. He was mentor and friend. Last year I ran into him in NH while taking our youngest to college. It brought back many fond memories. Our family sends are deepest sympathy to the Wandelt family.
—Martha Leary Niehaus, Advisor,lacrosse player., Class of '81, Camby, Indiana
8/25/2013 6:59:52 AM
I was so sorry to hear about Ferdie passing away. May the exact shade of our Lord's grace and perfect peace be with the family. I am personally very grateful for Ferdie. He took a chance on a skinny dyslexic kid during the spring/summer of 1979. My time at Taft and all gained including the gift of critical thought was made possible by Ferdie taking that chance. A very kind man...Thankful
—Bill Crooks III, Class of 1983 Taft Letterman--Theatre Alum, Class of 1983, Marblehead MA
8/24/2013 7:58:53 AM
Ode to Ferdie
They would seek
For every and each one
The Door opened
With Wisdom, Knowledge
Like a locksmith
Who knows the groves that seamlessly fit
For a door processes two sides
And knows the burden and the gift
On the other side
The side you cannot see
The Door yearned
It yearned to reveal
To an open mind and honest soul
The burden and the gift
The Door revealed
With love and care
—Ted Judson, He coached me on how to be a lacrosse goalie, Class of 73
8/17/2013 11:25:17 PM
I really cannot believe he is gone, he is someone who will never leave all of us. His thoughtfulness, tender understanding of families and situations is what made him a giant in the school world. As Dean Of Admission at Hotchkiss, we had a delightful rivalry that transcended competition but entered into the realm of doing what was best for a family. We understood each other perfectly and what our schools were all about. As Head of School now, I often think back to those conversations when he would cut to the chase and get the best from you. To say he will be missed is a gross understatement, he is irreplacable to us all. My love goes to Joanna, Allison and Christopher and the grandchildren who brought so much love into his life.
—Dr. Parny Hagerman, Colleague/ Former SSAT Board Member with Ferdie, Glencoe, MD
8/16/2013 11:53:38 AM
When I received the inexplicably sad email from Dick Cobb regarding Ferdie's passing. I immediately thought of the great love that Ferdie had for Joanna, his family, and Taft. He had equal passion for Taft students and Taft athletics. He bravely agreed to coach the first girl's varsity lacrosse team at a time when Taft was in it's embryonic stage of co-education. Ferdie had as much passion for the game of lacrosse as he did for making our team as competitive as we could be. To his great coaching credit, we beat Princeton's varsity team that spring. Ferdie taught himself about women's lacrosse and then had the self confidence and initiative to seek out strategy and direction from one of the most all time successful female coach in New England. He also had a wonderful sense of fun which made our daily practices so enjoyable.We all adored and respected Ferdie. We would have played for him forever. All our lives have been so enriched by our connections to Ferdie. Thank you Joanna for sharing such a treasure with the world.
—Melissa McCarthy Meager, Co-captain of Taft's first girl's varsity lacrosse team boldly coached by Ferdie and informal advisee, Class of 1974, Greenwich, Ct
8/15/2013 12:24:54 PM
When I heard about the passing of Ferdie, my heart was saddened. My family and I have lost a great friend. Shortly thereafter my mind was filled with many fond memories. There are way too many to share, but I will share a few. Ferdie was a great advisor. I really appreciated that he listened, tried to understand, and really cared about me. It was a wonderful relationship. We learned from each other. Ferdie asked me to accompany him on a few recruiting visits to schools and churches in various inner city neighborhoods in cities, including Chicago and Boston. He was conscientious and respectful to everyone he met. Ferdie would always tell stories about our visit to the Copley Hotel in Boston to have lunch and our visit to a parish in Boston. I had come to expect to hear those stories at any gathering I attended where he was present, whether it was in his office, at his home, or in the halls of Taft. My wife and I were honored to have Ferdie and Joanna attend our wedding in 1988. I was looking forward to seeing Ferdie at my 30th Reunion. I am blessed to have had the wonderful pleasure of seeing him during Parents Weekend in February 2013. At one of the regular and expected gatherings at his home, Ferdie asked my son, Aaron '16, if he was taking anyone to Formal. Aaron said no, so Ferdie tried to set him up with one of his advisees. I am grateful to have had to opportunity to have met Ferdie. I am honored to call him a friend of the Dillard Family. We will miss him, but we are so glad we got to know him. I am thankful that Joanna shared him so graciously with us and so many others. Thank you, Joanna! You are in our thoughts and prayers. God Bless You, Ferdie!
—Joseph Dillard, Ferdie was my Advisor and Friend of Our Family, Class of 1984, Minneapolis, Minnesota
8/9/2013 2:12:09 PM
Mr. Wandelt. A friend. An advisor. A father I never knew. A confidant. A visionary. And, the man, who single-handedly changed the course of not only my life, but also that of my sisters and my mother. I will never forget when he pulled up in the Black Lincoln Town Car to Saint Simon Stock in the Bronx -- it was my introduction to prestige (and Brooks Brothers). He sat with me, my mom, listened, and took a chance, and I thank him every day for that chance. His impact did not stop with my family but extended to my students when I taught in Oakland public schools. It has been almost a week and I still cannot gather my thoughts to succinctly summarize my sentiments. I am reminded of how grateful I am, however. I would like to thank Taft for allowing Ferdie to work his magic and affect the lives of so many. It speaks volumes to the commitment to our school motto what he has done in his short tenure as Director of Admissions. My love to the Wandelt family and the rest of my family at Taft.
—Shana Simmons, Advisee, Class of 1999, Oakland, CA
8/6/2013 12:34:22 AM
During my 9th grade year in public school my mother forced me to look at boarding schools. I had no intention of ever going. When I met Ferdie at Taft he asked why I wanted to go to Taft. I told him that I didn't and that the only reason I was there was because my mother made me come. He loved the candor and we became fast friends. Over time Ferdie convinced me to take a serious look at Taft. It became the only school I applied to, and largely because of Ferdie, I attended starting in my Mid year. Taft ended up changing my life for the better. Years later my nephew Abraham (class of 2006) and my daughter Rebecca (class of 2013) also attended and had an equally transformative experience. It all began with Ferdie and I will always hold a special place for him in my heart. Thank you Ferdie for changing my life and the lives of my family members for the better.
—Tom Bendheim, As with so many others, Ferdie was my first connection to Taft, Class of 1981, Barrington, RI
8/5/2013 3:19:28 PM
Ferdie's passing represents the end of era that cannot be replicated.
I would like to express my deepest thanks for his confidence in our son Matthew (2012) and in me in encouraging us to attend Taft some 34 years apart.
—Paul Leibfried, Admissions , Class of 78, Wilton, CT
8/2/2013 5:15:42 PM
Ferdie saw the best in me - when perhaps rightly others might not have - and more than that he brought out the best not only in me but so many. He understood teenagers and could speak to them. I saw him do it with two of my children as easily and effectively as he did it with me 30 years ago. Though seeing Ferdie was only an occasional event for me in the past decade - it was invariably a memorable one. Indeed more than that - the phrase or comment that would stick in my brain or my children's that would be remembered, quoted, and ultimately a motivator to acted on. He not only saw the best but brought out the best in people.
My most recent memory was at a Taft event where he quickly cut to the chase - "Glad to see your are doing well Rob but are you giving back?" Our conversation never touched, business but focused entirely on Non-Profit organizations and the time and importance of that part of life being the most ultimately fulfilling, endevours one could pursue.
Ferdie - he personified the Taft values - he carried them to many people and he perpetuated them in all of us.
May we all try and carry on those values, bring out the best, and spread those ethics and actions in others - I think he would respect that.
—Rob Petty, I learned from him , Class of 1979, Hong Kong - New York
7/31/2013 5:16:35 PM
What a sad loss for the admissions world this is.....Ferdie was so kind and generous with his time when I was a new admissions director at The Gunnery in the 1990s. My fondest memories are of him sharing his wisdom and advice and his recommending prospective students to me. I was so grateful to have his counsel during a time of growth for The Gunnery. He will be sorely missed.
Wendy Thompson, Westport Island, Maine
—Wendy Thompson, Colleague/Former Adm.Director-The Gunnery, Westport Island, Maine
7/31/2013 11:09:13 AM
Words cannot begin to describe how shocked and sad we were over the passing of Ferdie. He was such a wonderful,sincere and loving man. He always made Tom and I feel so comfortable in every situation at Taft. Our son, Todd, would have never enjoyed the wonderful opportunity he experienced at Taft if it hadn't been for Ferdie giving him a chance of a life time. For that we will always be grateful. A couple years later we can remember Todd coming home and telling us "Mr. Wendelt asked me to take Chris under my wing and show him the ropes at Taft". Todd could relate to what Chris was feeling because he said,"afterall mom, he's a towny like me." He was so proud that Ferdie entrusted his
son to him. Ferdie possessed a wonderful quality and that was loving people!
The Taft School and Taft Community has lost a great friend and ambassador! Try not to dwell on the sadness of the moment but remember all the great moments we all shared with Ferdie. He will be greatly missed! Our heartfelt condolences go out to Joanna, Alison and Christopher.
Toms and Linda McGovern -Todd McGovern 92-93
—Tom and Linda McGovern, son went to Taft Todd Mcovern 92 , Toms River, New Jersey
7/31/2013 9:40:15 AM
I too had the honor of meeting Ferdie the first day I stepped onto the Taft campus. I remember it like yesterday when he asked me "if there was a pile of books in one corner and a pile of sports equipment in the other corner which corner would I go to?" I could already tell that if I said the books, he would see right through me, so I said the sports equipment, even though my Father said I was going to Taft for the education. Luckily, I was able to experience both.
Ferdie was my advisor and my coach for lacrosse. I remember hearing "one more time" at least ten times before practice would end. I always catch myself saying "get on your horse Carr" to my daughters when they need to move faster.
As an advisor, Ferdie always knew when he needed to pull me into his office because he knew something was bothering me. Ferdie also knew when to have me to the house, so I could play ball with Allison and Christopher.
This past Alumni weekend, Ferdie sat down with my daughter Kerry to talk about looking into prep schools. It brought back great memories for me, but it also allowed Kerry to meet a great man who gave her great advice.
We will miss you Ferdie. Thank you for being my advisor, my coach and my second Father during my years at Taft.
—Sara Coan Carr, Class of 1988, Advisee, lacrosse player, Class of 88, New Hartfor, NY
7/31/2013 7:34:11 AM
I came to know Ferdie through the Alumni Lacrosse games in the 1980's and 1990's. He was a great competitor and a lot of fun during the games and especially afterwards at "The Tent." While playing defense with him I was amazed at how he maintained a level of intensity in goal, and I wish I had had the opportunity to play with him as a student. As I got to know him it was appartent that he was emblematic of the School. The last time I saw Ferdie was this year at the 50th anniversity celebration of lacrosse at Taft. I will truly miss him. His legacy lives on in thousands of people, and I am proud to be one of them.
—Bruce Harvey, Friend and alumni, Class of 1972, Wethersfield, CT
7/30/2013 10:06:11 PM
I was stunned when I read the 'Globe'obituary. As a same age 'faculty brat', Ferdie has,
from 9th grade on, been in my life. He was always interested in what was happening particularly as we both grew up. I remember running into him on the UNC campus at times which was always fun and a great connection with home.
As time went by, I remember him
with Miss Butterly, Mr. Cunningham
and particularly when Joanna would
bring the kids, whom he doted on, by to visit. He would take time out and visit with them. I also remember his sense of an interviewee's worth, abilities, and pride. I also know that Dad (Bill Sullivan) and Mom (Marietta Sullivan), especially, were fond of
Truly, Taft has lost a piece of
history, a piece of its soul, and
an incredible ambassador for the
values of Messr's Taft's, Cruikshank's, Esty's, Odden's, and MacMullen's school.
I send hopes that these multiple posted memories will help Joanna, Alison, and Chris through this horrible time. With fondness,
Ann M. Sullivan
—ann sullivan, taft faculty brat, sms class '66; carolina '70, burlington, ma
7/30/2013 7:52:32 PM
I was one of the fortunate to have met Ferdie and interviewed with him upon my initial visit to Taft. I remember that day like it was yesterday. It was that meeting when I was convinced Taft was the right place for me. It probably had a lot to do with Ferdie asking me who I had for English at Greenwich Country Day School. I wasn't sure where he was going with the question but I answered Mr. Brody. He then asked me my grade. I replied with an embarrassing 65! His reaction to my surprise was that's not bad from Brody. I was so relieved and relaxed from that point on and it made my visit! From my time at Taft and after, Ferdie always took an interest in how I was doing whether it be in the classroom, on the playing field or just life in general. He embodied what Taft is all about and I am so lucky that He knew who Mr. Brody was! Thank you Ferdie for giving me the opportunity! My condolences to Joanna, Alison and Chris. Your husband/father was an inspiration to so many and his memory will be with all of us forever.
—Douglas A. Freedman, Class of '88, One of the blessed to have known Ferdie!, Class of 1988, Winnetka, IL
7/30/2013 1:28:25 PM
What an unbelievably tragic loss for all of us in independent school schools, and as truly befitting this "citizen of the world", it is so touching to read these stirring tributes pouring in from all over the world. When I began my secondary school counselor role in 1978 at Lake Forest Country Day School, the very first person I met representing secondary schools was Ferdie. To this day, I cherish the hour Ferdie spent with me as he shared his profound wisdom and counsel.I have never known anyone who has been a true mentor to more people than has Ferdie. This one of a kind, one in a million gentleman will be so deeply missed by all those who loved and adored him so much. If we know what we know because we stand on the shoulders of giants, Ferdie was one of those giants! Best wishes and love from this aching heart to Joanna and family!
—Bob Bullard, Friend of Ferdie, Lake Bluff, Illinois
7/30/2013 12:25:19 PM
Ferdie not only welcomed me to Taft with open arms and a broad smile, but also welcomed both my sons, Cai '08 and Nicolas '09, during their admissions process and invitation to join the Taft family. During my four years as a Taftie, and later as a parent, Ferdie's office was a frequent stop for me.
On the lacrosse field he meant business. "Ground balls! On your horse Goldsborough!" Every one of Ferdie's team members played hard and loved doing so! He coached like no other.
His presence will be missed by all of us. Sending love to Joanna, Alison, Christopher, your families, and the entire Taft community.
—Nancy Hurt, lacrosse player, class of '79, parent '08, '09, Class of 1979, Fletcher, Vermont
7/30/2013 11:55:29 AM
Ferdie Wandelt was a gentle visionary whose commitment to The Secondary School Admission Test Board knew no equal. When I joined SSATB in 2011, Ferdie drove down to visit me within weeks of my arrival in order to offer support - a thoughtful gesture which meant a great deal. Two years later, I now realize how much Ferdie gave to this organization over the decades. Ferdie's leadership during the 1980s and 1990s was critical to SSATB's ultimate success. Ferdie served on our board at the time of the hiring of our first executive (Dr. Regan Kenyon), and he was part of the board that decided SSATB should be independent of ETS. These actions have proven critical in building today's successful organization with over 900 members and serving 75,000+ testers worldwide. Ferdie always understood that SSATB's core commitment - service to independent school admission professionals- was central to SSATB's purpose. Today, we honor that commitment and Ferdie's legacy and vow to continue to make him proud. In deep gratitude for his contributions to our organization and the wider admission profession, Heather Hoerle, SSATB Executive Director
—Heather Hoerle, Ferdie served on the SSATB board, and was its chair, Princeton, NJ
7/30/2013 10:23:01 AM
I am one of the hundreds, probably thousands of non-Tafies who was so wonderfully lucky to be welcomed into the world of Ferdie Wandelt. I already knew Ferdie before I became the director of admission at Loomis Chaffee, but it was during my years in that role that Ferdie and I became fast friends. I always looked first to him for his advice on admission issues. As our friendship grew I also came to count on his wisdom, insights, and humor for much more personal matters. Ferdie was always, always, ALWAYS there for me and so many others. I could call him a mentor, but in truth he was so much more. He was one of my heroes. It is really that simple. The entire private school world has lost of its giants. My deep sympathy and great affection to Joanna, Christopher, Alison and the entire Taft family.
—Tom Southworth, Friend of Ferdie, Windsor, CT
7/30/2013 9:22:10 AM
It's such a sad day in the history of Taft. When I received the news from Willy, I felt sick with shock and sadness.
Ferdie was one of a kind. Ferdie did such an amazing job putting together a class and a school each year. Every person was a simple piece of a large and complex puzzle. He was the master at creating the perfect school environment.
He also truly was Taft's ambassador who knew and cared about so many people, and they cared so much about him. He was one of the first people you met at Taft (during the admissions process), but it was his ability to continue to care about and follow each student's progress, and later stay in touch with them as an adult and alum, that made him truly unique.
It was just 6 months ago when I asked him about schools in San Francisco Bay Area, and child development. Ferdie's advice: "Kingman...It's not about where you go. It's about getting along in the sandbox. If they can get along in the sandbox, you'll be fine".
He will forever be loved and respected by all who knew him...and he knew everyone! We are all so lucky to have been a part of his life and he will be missed dearly.
My love and heartfelt condolences go out to Joanna, Alison and Christopher.
- Kingman Gordon '88
—Kingman Gordon, Alumni, Class of 1988, San Francisco
7/29/2013 3:37:58 PM
What a monumental loss not only to Taft and the secondary school community, but especially to his family, friends and so many others.
Cammie and I send our heartfelt condolences to his family in particular at this time and to all who have, indeed, lost a great man.
I have several remembrances of Ferdie, but the one that is most important to us is, ironically, when he turned down our daughter, Mia, for Taft. I remember his phone call, and his constructive words about how Taft was just not the right school for her, even though she was a Taft legacy. More importantly, he took the time and effort to help all of us find an alternative school, through his introduction to Howard Green and Howard's recommendation of Proctor Academy for Mia. This connection turned out to be an extraordinary one, as Mia thrived and succeeded at Proctor. Thank you, Ferdie!
—Henry Bertram, Part of a three generation Taft family, Class of 1969, Fairfield, CT
7/29/2013 11:03:50 AM
I was a nervous 13-year old when I met Ferdie during my very first high school admissions interview. My family had been “referred” to Taft by some family friends and the thought of leaving home was exhilarating and terrifying and the process of discussing that with a strange man I’d met not three minutes before was nerve-wracking. I was fiddling with a beautiful pen that was on his desk and managed to adjust it sufficiently so that it exploded and parts of his very expensive and much-cherished pen flew everywhere. He laughed and made light of my horrifying moment and said I’d handled myself well. A short time later I received a letter offering me admission. Thank you, Ferdie, for taking a chance on a nervous but excited country girl from rural Vermont!
—Claudia Harris, Class of 1983, Landgrove, Vermont
7/29/2013 9:32:04 AM
Ferdie Wandelt brought the biggest gift to my life. He simply has changed the life of my family, when he selected me for the Taft scholarship last year. I will never forget his ensuring kind words on my first day at Taft. He always protected and encouraged me during my first year. My parents loved meeting with him here in Budapest. We are deeply distressed by the news of his sudden passing. Mr. Wandelt will remain in our hearts forever.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Joanna , Allison, and Christopher.
With deepest sympathy,
Raymond Kanyó '14 and my parents: István Kanyó, Judit Bajzák
—Raymond Kanyo, Student, Class of 2014, Budapest, Hungary
7/29/2013 6:50:08 AM
In all my experiences with Mr. Wandelt, he was larger than life. I was always in awe of his ability, with his ready smile and a few warm words, to take away your worries and convince you that everything will be ok, no not just ok but great, and then even more incredibly to make it so. During a moment when I was particularly lost in my first year at Taft, he and Mrs. Wandelt gave me their support, moral as well as every tangible help they could, and I will always remember it fondly and gratefully. For the rest of my time at Taft, I always felt that no matter what I would always have at least one person there who cared almost as much for me as my family did. And since I graduated, every time I returned to Taft his was always the visit I most looked forward to. Mr. Wandelt, you will be missed.
—Khanh Do Ba, Unofficial advisee, Class of '02, Hanoi, Vietnam
7/29/2013 12:11:20 AM
We are all deeply saddened by the untimely demise of Mr. Wandelt.
Mr. Wandelt was instrumental in bringing the first Vietnamese students to Taft, and in bringing the Taft School, together with many other American schools, to the heart of many families in Vietnam. The Do Ba family is honored to have four members joining Taft (Khiem ’00, Khanh ’02, Khoa ’06 and Khai ’08), all with the advice and recommendations of Mr. Wandelt.
I still fondly remember the first time I met Mr. Wandelt. It was at a hotel in Bangkok, and I went there, accompanied by my son Khanh (’02), to say “thank you” on behalf of my brother, father of Khiem (’00) as the Wandelt family had embraced Khiem, the first Vietnamese at Taft, just like a family member, giving him a “home away from home”. Most of that meeting was spent by me watching Mr. Wandelt talking with my son. I never forget how the eyes of Khanh were brightened during the talk, and how enthusiastic he was after that in preparing to apply to Taft. His life, to me at least, took a great turn at this short meeting, and I am grateful to Mr. Wandelt for the “magic”.
The whole Do Ba family is expressing our condolence to Joanna, Allison and Christopher. We hope you will have the strength to get over this loss. Mr. Wandelt will always be there in our heart.
Khang Do Ba and Ha Pham Thi Thu (parents of Khanh ’02 and Khai ’08)
Khoi Do Ba and Binh Nguyen Thi (parents of Khiem ’00 and Khoa ‘06
—Khang Do Ba, parent _ The Do Ba family, Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
7/28/2013 11:34:10 PM
Just to say many thanks for giving my son Douglas a chance at a great education. I will never forget your kind words on that day of the interview.
—Douglas Moses, Class of 2006, USA
7/28/2013 9:43:46 PM
I grew up looking up to Ferdie and his Dad in Princeton. He was a close friend and roommate to my brother Colie (Class of '66). When I heard he was coming to Taft, I requested that he be my advisor, even before he had left for his reserve duty prior to coming to Taft, such was my admiration and respect for him. He saw me through my youthful indiscretions at Taft and instilled in me his great ethos for people, service and humility. Reminiscing upon my Shakespeare learned at Taft, I am reminded of the Hamlet quote "Take him for all and all. I shall not look upon his like again".
—William Donaldson, Class of '74, Ferdie's first advisee and lifelong family friend from Princeton, Class of 74, Newport News
7/28/2013 5:33:50 PM
Ferdie was a classmate and friend. Even as a sophomore Ferdie was unfailingly open to all he encountered, offering wisdom and sometimes just plain support. His smile lit up classrooms, dinner tables and playing fields.
Whyat a life of service! There's certainly no shame in banking, law and the other financially rewarding careers that most Tafties choose, but Ferdie was one of the few members idealism so many of us espoused.
Ferdie's death diminishes all of us, but his life enriched us all.
—Peter Birkett, f/k/a "Stoney.", Alum/classmate/friend, Class of 66, Plandome, NY
7/28/2013 2:38:50 PM
Ferdie had a way of making people feel so special. He was such a warm, interested, and generous man.
I had lunch with him last year in Walpole, NH and we caught up and laughed. He had not changed a bit in the 25 years since I graduated from Taft. So involved in making a difference for individuals at Taft and through organizations he invested himself in.
Such a terrific man and role model. He touched my life and I am so much better for it. Thank you, Ferdie. You will be so missed. You were a gift to Taft and the many people you welcomed into the community.
Love to Joanna, Allison, and Christopher.
—Betsy Jaffe, Advisee, Class of 1987, Dummerston, Vermont
7/27/2013 5:06:55 PM
I feel very fortunate to have reconnected with Ferdie in the late 1990's . Ferdie and I played hockey against each other when I was a PG at Choate class of 1966. Ferdie and the Taft team beat us in a memorable game at Choate. Years later we met when my daughter applied to Taft well after the applications were due. Ferdie called me and persona
Ly saw to it that my daughter was able to be a PG at Taft. It was a special gift he gave her and one I will always be indebted for. I was so fortunate to attend her games and always reminiss with Ferdie. Over the years he constantly reached out to me to help other kids. He had a huge heart that defined him. He will always be special to me.
—Bill GILBANE , Friend, Barrington Rhode Island
7/27/2013 4:59:05 PM
Does anyone have a photo of Ferdie and my Dad, Joe Cunningham, that could be posted?? They had a very special relationship and I know my Dad would love to be a part of Ferdie memories.
—Sue Wofford, daughter of Joe "coach" and Betty Cunningham, Watertown, CT
7/27/2013 2:54:16 PM
As a classmate, fellow lacrosse, football player and Monitor I was able to see and know Ferdie in his years at Taft. The three adjectives which come to mind in describing Ferdie are humble, thoughtful and competitive. The description that most fit all of Ferdie’s activities was "hard work". Unlike many of our classmates the academic requirements at Taft did not always come easy for both of us. Ferdie's quiet desire and drive to exceed expectations and justify Joe Cunningham's acceptance decision was always an example of his work ethic which he continued throughout all of his years at Taft.
Likewise, I know our family was the beneficiary of Ferdie’s entrance acceptance decisions based on intangible personal characteristics and not exclusively on academic excellence. The Taft community has lost a talented and passionate mentor who was an advocate of the school, the administration but most of all its students. We will all miss you Ferdie and the gifts you gave each of us and thank Joanna, Allison, Chris and family for sharing him with us. Jamie and the Hedges Family
—Jamie Hedges, Classmate & father of students who he influenced, Class of 1966, New Canaan, CT, USA
7/27/2013 12:47:44 PM
Ferdie's positive impact on Taft and all those with whom he came in contact both inside and outside the school is immeasurable. He learned from the best Admissions Director at the time (Joe Cunningham) and then went on to be the best - an Admissions Director without equal. The Taft community has truly lost a legend. Our thoughts and prayers are with Joanna, Allison, and Christopher.
—Sam Crocker, Class of 1960, Redding, Ct
7/27/2013 11:16:51 AM
Ferdie was sanctuary in so many ways. He was my psychology 101 teacher, my advisor, and my lacrosse coach. But perhaps this is what mattered most to me; his home, his family--even his dog. Advisee "feeds," chats in the kitchen, babysitting Topher and Allison and feeling safe, cared for--soundly and deeply--, only a short walk across the fields to a lit house and the benevolence of a truly exceptional man and his family.
—Amanda Unger Leahy, 1985 Taft Gruduate and Ferdie's student, advisee and lacrosse player, Class of 1985, Carbondale
7/27/2013 10:15:21 AM
Although I started Taft as a Lower-Mid and spent 4 years there, I did not really get to know Ferdie until I started working for him in the Admissions Office in my 30's. Unlike Joe Dillard, who discovered how cool Ferdie was during our years at Taft, I was not as fortunate and missed out. Once I discovered who he was, the intelligence that he possessed and the skills that he taught me about selecting candidates for Taft, I felt very honored to be working next to him. He taught me so much about the world of admissions...building relationships, connecting to families and how to advocate for students who I felt strongly about. But more than that, Ferdie taught me how to understand people and my role in helping to bridge communities. He was truly a professional and one of the best supervisors that I have ever worked with. I am saddened by his loss and send nothing but heartfelt prayers to Joanna, their children and to the entire Taft community.
—Felecia (Washington) Williams, Taft Grad, Class of 1984, Columbus, Ohio
7/27/2013 7:44:24 AM
Coach was a father figure for me. He taught me how to play goalie in the lacrosse net and take the hard shots. he taught me about mental toughness, focus and passion; and his guidance on the field and beyond was invaluable. His spirit is everywhere, his coaching indelible in my life. I send my thoughts and prayers to Mrs. Wandelt, Bop and the whole family as well as the entire Taft community . We have lost a great leader.
On your horse...
—Ashley Wilberding Balavoine, He was my coach, Class of 90, Mendham, NJ
7/26/2013 10:40:31 PM
We all miss you so deeply Ferdie!!!!!!
JO JO we love you,
Ferdy and the Masucci family
—Christiana Masucci, four children, Far Hills
7/26/2013 9:25:24 PM
My sister Wendy '06 and I both felt deeply touched by our experiences meeting with Mr. Wandelt at the Open Houses in Taipei. During my interview, I remembered that he calmly listened to my thoughts and ideas about my plans at Taft and warmly encouraged me to pursue those visions. His decision to give me and my sister the opportunity to attend Taft transformed our lives. For the first time in my life, I felt respected as a young adult, someone with full potential to flourish and make a mark in the world. My family and I are deeply saddened by the news of his sudden passing, and I know that I am not alone in saying that he has left a fond legacy in the hearts of all the Tafties that had the privilege to meet him. He was certainly the embodiment and guardian of the Taft tradition and spirit.
—Sara Lin, Class of 1999, interviewee, Class of 1999, Taipei, Taiwan
7/26/2013 6:38:04 PM
Mr. Wandelt became like a second father to me during my time at Taft. I have countless memories of sitting in his office and listening to him solve all the problems in my life (he could read me like a book and did most of the talking). It is difficult to imagine Taft without him. I send my love to the Wandelt family and the rest of the Taft community.
—Emily Morris, Ferdie's advisee, Class of 2004, Reston, VA
7/26/2013 5:53:45 PM
Condolences to you and the Taft family on the passing of Ferdie.
Way back in the 60's as an upperclassman, he was always kind to lower classmen even while others were not.
He's still in goal.
—Dennis Vitrella, Alumni, Class of 1969
7/26/2013 2:52:25 PM