WANDELT--Frederick H. Long time admissions director Frederick H. "Ferdie" Wandelt III dies at 65. February 10, 1948 July 25, 2013. For more than 30 years, Ferdie Wandelt was the face of the Taft School in Watertown, CT. He traveled the globe seeking the best and brightest students. He died Thursday due to sudden complications of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, surrounded by family and friends. "From the outset, Ferdie understood two interrelated principles," said Taft Headmaster Emeritus Lance Odden. "First, that attracting the best mix of diversely talented students would create a uniquely spirited community; and second, that the vibrancy so created would elevate Taft's place in the community of schools." No school has ever had a finer admissions leader. The son of Fred and Susie Wandelt, Ferdie grew up in Princeton, New Jersey. A graduate of Taft and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he returned to Taft, after service with the National Guard, in the fall of 1971 to join the Admissions Office, earning an MALS degree at Wesleyan University. In 1976, he succeeded Joe Cunningham as director of admissions. "He transformed our school," said Odden. "It is impossible to capture all Ferdie was to Taft and to thousands who knew and loved him," said current Taft headmaster Willy MacMullen. "With his death, we have lost a great man, someone who will join the list of legendary educators who devoted their lives to our school, and someone who served with an unparalleled love, passion, and loyalty." For the next four decades, he was a beloved figure on campus, but his service to the larger educational community meant he was also a globally respected leader. He was a board member of ASSIST (American Secondary Schools for International Students and Teachers); president of the SSATB (Secondary School Admissions Test Board); and a trustee for the Challengers Boys and Girls Club of Los Angeles. Other scholarship organizations, like Prep for Prep and the Wight Foundation, knew Ferdie as a supportive and visionary leader. Peer schools were made better because he helped open doors in international recruitment, and he shared his best ideas with them. "It's about helping all schools and kids," he said often. "He was much more than just the finest admissions director in the country," said MacMullen. "Ferdie had a unique humor, warmth, and grace. After you met him in an interview, you wanted to attend Taft. And in those twenty minutes, Ferdie could 'read' a candidate with a sensitivity and insight that was astonishing. Those who were admitted felt blessed, and somehow, those who were not felt that he cared deeply and personally, and indeed, Ferdie regularly counseled families and helped them find another school that was a better fit." He traveled the world telling the Taft story. He was a superb girls' lacrosse coach, and scores of young teachers sought him for advice. Ferdie changed Taft, and he changed lives. He is survived by his wife Joanna, brother Joseph "Sandy" Wandelt of Sicklerville, NJ, daughter Allison Halsell her husband Benjamin, of New Canaan, CT, son Christopher Wandelt and his wife Erin of Redding, CT, and five grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Frederick H. Wandelt III '66 Scholarship Fund, The Taft School, 110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 06795. There will be a memorial service at Taft on Saturday, September 28.
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Published in The New York Times on July 28, 2013