Frans Preidel ’83

Student from Belgium creates opportunities to stand out on a unique path of success.

After Frans Preidel graduated from the American College of Switzerland (located in the Swiss village of Leysin) with a double major in marketing and business management, he applied for a position as a bond trader at a German bank in Amsterdam. At the conclusion of his interview, he was told that he “didn’t have enough life experience for the job.” Without missing a beat, Frans replied, “That’s fine, but funny. From the time I wrote my resume and this moment, I couldn’t have gained 15 years of experience! Why did you interview me?”

As Frans describes, he landed his first job out of college by being a wiseass.

Listening to him, one can sense there may be a particle of truth in his self-assessment (“I was always a wiseass, but maybe not in every language!”). However, the warmth in his voice and natural ease of his storytelling stands out and strongly suggest that there are also meaningful life experiences and incredible substance behind this “wiseass” persona!

After growing up in Holland and Belgium, he arrived in Pennsburg in 1980, one day past his 16th birthday. He mentions this with the casual air of someone sharing the day’s weather report, so it’s easy to conclude that he faced this major milestone with confidence! Frans chuckles and prefers the terms “stubbornness and ignorance.” When you’re young, determined, and find yourself away from family for the first time in a foreign country (with little to no English comprehension), you’re “stubborn enough to just keep going and you’re ignorant enough to ignore the stuff going on around you.”

Perhaps there was also some ease in knowing that his older brother, Leo ’81, was already attending school at Perkiomen, finding his way as a popular athlete and overall lady’s man, though Frans was not keen on following this particular path. Even at a young age, Frans had a working philosophy about success: bring an experience that very few other people can. Standing out will help you succeed! Maybe you can’t do this by being the best performer, but you can certainly do it by being different.

There were teachers at Perkiomen who stood out to Frans and helped him as he made his way in Pennsburg. Not exactly a hub of worldwide experiences, Frans and the handful of his international peers were looked upon very curiously by residents of Pennsburg. But there was John Sakalouckas (aka Mr. Saks), Reid Watson, and Dean Paul Hausmann. They made an impression on Frans and became as familiar and dependable to him as the weekly, thin, light blue letters he received from his parents from overseas. Frans did well at Perkiomen and stood out by being studious, reliable, and hardworking.

A few years later, Leo and Frans were once again attending school together, but this time, they didn’t have to worry about being in a small town that was unaccustomed to international students. 60 countries were represented among the undergraduate population of about 275 at the American College of Switzerland. A former grand hotel, you could pull on your skis in the lobby of the school, do a few runs down the slopes, and take the lift back into the school in time for your next class. How exactly does one stand out among an Arabic princess, members of the ruling family of Somalia, or the children of America’s captains of industry?

Frans found a way.

Among other success stories (he double majored in marketing and business management while becoming student body president, for example) and adventures, one of his favorite stories is when he found himself at a ski supply shop with Jake Burton, inventor of the snowboard. Jake was introducing this foreign-looking athletic equipment to the shop’s proprietor. Frans took to it immediately. Formerly a skateboarder, the snowboard was a great fit. He was likely one of the very first snowboarders in Europe in the early 1980s!

Perhaps some of Frans’ past seems a bit surreal now that he’s had some time and space to reflect. He understands not everyone has the experience of attending school abroad when – at first – you don’t speak that country’s language… not everyone has been one of the very first people on a continent to try a sport that would end up in the Olympics. Not everyone meets his spouse by literally drawing the short straw at work to call a client overseas to apologize for a coworker’s blunder… only to spend hours chatting over the phone and then eventually moving from Amsterdam to the United States to meet and marry her! (Frans and his wife, Dalal, an incredible professional in the financial field, have been together for 34 years!) Frans is an example of someone whose tenacious spirit, logical and intuitive nature, and thoughtful decisions led him to a fulfilling life of adventure and achievement! From a successful first career in finance to starting his own company in food production, to most recently working in residential real estate, Frans has certainly come a long way from that 16-year-old who arrived in Pennsburg! By pledging $25,000 a year for five years, he thinks of his late brother, Leo and Leo’s friend, the late Larry Olivieri ’81. He thinks of future Perkiomen students who, like Frans, will find their own path to success, standing out, navigating their way with confidence.