Mel Wasserman

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Mel Wasserman
Born 1932
Cleveland, Ohio
Died April 28, 2002
Carmel, California
Occupation Businessman, Entrepreneur
Known for Founder of CEDU Schools
Spouse(s) Brigitte Wasserman (Steinnman)
Children 3

Mel Wasserman (1932 – April 29, 2002)[1] was a businessman, entrepreneur and founder of CEDU Education.[2] He was a pioneer in the Therapeutic Boarding School industry.[3]


Wasserman participated in Synanon.[4] Wasserman and Brigitte helped found The Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey County.[5]

After starting work with troubled teens in his home in Palm Springs, California, Mel decided to sell his furniture business and invest in a school to help teenagers.[2] Success of the CEDU program was dramatic and it rapidly expanded into other specialized educational programs.[5] Mel surrounded himself with educators and professionals and educated himself in the field of adolescent behavior.[3] The philosophy he brought to CEDU Education was strict adherence to his set of principles, notably accountability and boundaries. He has been quoted as saying to students and parents, "Take away boundaries and bring in a sewer, a biker society. The magic is not in the building itself, it is in the setting of boundaries, a certain posture and a certain way we act inside them, and then we have something which facilitates what we are trying to do here."[6]

Lon Woodbury former admissions director at CEDU and current independent education consultant had this to say about Wasserman. "Mel Wasserman was influenced by Synanon, and so used the confrontation model watered down quite a bit in the founding in CEDU."[4]

Alice Jackson a San Francisco educational consultant was impressed by what she saw at CEDU in the mid '70's. "I was first of all astounded by the magical personality that (Wasserman) had," Jackson said. "I had great admiration for his dedication for these kids."[4]

In his tribute to Mel Wasserman, Dan Earle, founding headmaster of Rocky Mountain Academy and co-president of CEDU Schools, describes his time at CEDU as a “golden age of education”, during which "the idea of a holistic, integral education was born", with "an emotional growth curriculum running parallel to an academic, civic and wilderness curriculum". He believes that this education model was in line with the teachings of Kurt Hahn, founder of Outward Bound and John Dewey's views on education. Finally, Dan states "Three decades before the term "Emotional Quotient" would appear acknowledging the importance of emotions, Mel was pioneering the creation of an educational approach that would address equally the development of the individual's emotional knowledge, as well as one's intellectual capacity, civic participation, and personal responsibility". The success of Mel's ideas for educating troubled teens at CEDU seeded the therapeutic boarding school industry.[3]