Head of School John Austin and the Academy’s Board of Trustees are honored to announce a transformational gift of 80 million dollars to the school’s endowment from alumnus and former Trustee Rodolfo “Rudi” Wachsman, Class of 1953.
“Rudi had such a significant, positive impact as a member of the Board, where his focus was always on the student experience,” says Dr. Austin. “This gift—the largest in the Academy’s history—will continue to enrich the experience of generations of Deerfield students to come. We are all grateful for and inspired by Rudi’s dedication to the Academy, and the entire Deerfield community can take pride in this intergenerational vote of confidence in Deerfield’s future.”
Rudi, who died from complications related to Covid-19 on January 9, 2021, was a successful businessman whose career included international banking, the vice-chairmanship of Televisa, and teaching at Mexico’s University of the Americas. A passionate world traveler who literally circled the globe over 100 times, Rudi nevertheless referred to Deerfield Academy as the “center” of his world. At the time of his 50th Reunion, Rudi noted, “The more I see and learn, I realize what a privilege Deerfield was and is.”
Board President Leila Govi ’93 P’26 recently commented, “For those who knew Rudi all their lives or others who had just a handful of moments with him, he left deep, meaningful connections for us all. Rudi had an open heart, an open mind, an insatiable curiosity, an encyclopedic knowledge (including of the most obscure and random facts and places because there were few he had not visited!), an appreciation for meeting new people, a modern mind yet guarding of traditions, a contagious spirit of fun and vitality, and, an unrivaled love for Deerfield.”
Rudi’s devotion to the Academy began in 1951 when he joined the student body as a new junior. Decades later, reflecting on his time as a student, he said, “from the moment I arrived, I loved the school and what it represented.” Rudi was one of just a few international students in the 1950s, but he said he never felt “foreign” at Deerfield and credited the Academy with exposing him to the best of the United States.
A former varsity soccer, squash, and tennis player, Rudi became a major supporter of the Academy’s Athletics Complex when construction began in 2017, and Dr. Austin is pleased to announce that the facility is to be named in Rudi’s honor: The Rodolfo E. Wachsman ’53 Athletics Complex. The Academy will hold a special dedication ceremony in the spring of 2023.
Rudi also showed his support for the arts at Deerfield through his gift of the Elizabeth Wachsman Concert Hall, given in memory of his mother, who was an avid supporter of New York City’s Metropolitan Opera.
Upon his retirement from the business world at the age of 63, Rudi also stepped back from his activities on multiple boards and his affiliation with the Mexican Foreign Affairs Council. But when he was approached to join Deerfield’s Board of Trustees, he didn’t hesitate to say yes.
“Nobody embodied Deerfield’s culture and values more than Rudi,” said recent past-President of the Board Brian Simmons P’12,’14 H’22, “and he credited all he accomplished to Deerfield. As a trustee, he always sought to preserve and enhance the student life experience that meant so much to him. He was a gentleman, he was fun, and he was a trusted friend to everyone who knew him.”
In addition to his unwavering support for student life, Rudi served on the Board’s Buildings and Grounds and Admission committees. He was known for his candid and worldly advice and his firm belief that Deerfield should have a strong international presence among the student body. Rudi fluently spoke several languages and strongly supported the study of languages, world history, and international affairs at Deerfield.
“Rudi often said that Deerfield had the most impact on him—it shaped him, grounded him, offered him a sense of community and family, and instilled in him a love of learning and a keen appreciation for the people who devote their lives to education,” Ms. Govi said. “Rudi is the very best example of the kind of deep, meaningful connections we want our students to have at Deerfield—with their friends, with their teachers, and across our community—whether on the playing fields, in the classroom, or at the dinner table. This will be Rudi’s enduring legacy. We will always be grateful for his friendship, his service, and for his most generous gift to the Academy, which will enable us to launch new initiatives and fund existing programs for the next generation of Deerfield students.”