Faculty connections aid college applicants

By Danny Nessim

Tedwalch died three weeks ago. He was 77 dog years old and was put to sleep by his owner, Kenyon College Senior Associate Director of Admissions Liz Forman. His namesake, upper school performing arts teacher Ted Walch, mourned his passing.

Walch is a Kenyon graduate. He met Forman in 1978 when he returned to Gambier, Ohio to direct the opening of the Kenyon Bolton Theater. His friendship with Forman, who is the admissions officer responsible for Southern California, is particularly helpful for Walch when he helps one of his students get in to Kenyon.

“I do lobby really aggressively for students,” Walch said.

Some teachers and administrators, like Walch, have strong connections with certain schools and can help kids get a leg up on the competition.  Most of the upper school deans have close connections with schools they worked at before coming to Harvard-Westlake. Beth Slattery worked at USC before she came two years ago, Canh Oxelson at the University of Pennsylvania, Tamar Adegbile at Vassar and Columbia and Jason Honsel at Lehigh.

Walch has a particularly strong rapport with Kenyon admissions because he went back to work there after he graduated. He helps an average of one student a year to get in to the school, including current English teacher Adam Howard ’93.

For the most part, students will come to him, knowing that he went to Kenyon and has been involved with the college over the years. At other times, he will try to encourage students he thinks would like the school to apply.

When he decides to help a student, he will contact the Admissions Office through letters or recommendations, phone calls and even face-to-face conversation with Forman.

“Of the small liberal arts colleges, we’ve had an astonishing number go to Kenyon,” Walch said. “I can’t take credit for all of them, but I’ll certainly take credit for some.”

Chief Advancement Officer Ed Hu has maintained a close relationship with the admission office of Brown University since he left in 1994 as the associate director of admissions.
A dozen or so kids come to Hu every year, hoping to take advantage of his connections at the university. 

Hu tries to be very realistic with the students he tries to help.

“I try to be very careful about that because clearly word is on the street that I’m connected to Brown,” he said. “I can’t be making a phone call for every single person who asks me. I have to have credibility with the University as well.”

Hu tries to stay under the radar. He is happy to talk generally about Brown, and, most of the time, Hu will help students by recommending professors at Brown with whom they should meet. If a student has a letter of recommendation from the faculty of the school, it will be worth much more than any letter from Hu, he said.

Sam Alper ’07, who was accepted early to Brown, received help from Hu when former Upper School Dean Sharon Cuseo recommended that Alper talk to him. 

Alper had already e-mailed a Brown English professor and playwright Paula Vogel with the script of his play, “Stickman.” He asked Vogel if she could read his play and told her that he really wanted to go to Brown. She had already responded to Alper, with praise, but Hu also sent Vogel an e-mail, praising Alper.

President Thomas C. Hudnut has developed relationships with admissions officers at many schools in his years at Harvard-Westlake and in working at other private high schools.

“I’ve been in the business long enough to have some friends who go way back,” he said.  “For example, Shep Shanley, who is the senior associate director of admissions at Northwestern, was someone who I knew when I was a college counselor [at St. Albans School in Washington D.C.] in the early ’70s. That’s a long time.”

Despite this friendship and other friendships like these with administrators at a wide variety of colleges, Hudnut insists that he can not help students as much as some might believe. He helps around 15 students a year.

“People who thought I had a magic wand would be foolish,” he said. “It would be easy to make more of these friendships, either that I have or that anybody else has, than they deserve because all of these people are professionals whose job it is to make decisions, and they make those decisions in the best interest of their universities, rather than to do favors for their friends.”