Colleagues pay tribute to Dr. Soistmann

By on December 23, 2014

Long-time superintendent, civic leader, dies at 80

The Ephrata community last week mourned the loss of Dr. Theodore L. Soistmann Jr., a long time Ephrata School District superintendent. ER20141224_SOISTMANNDISTRICT

“Ted” Soistmann, 80, of Ephrata, who was superintendent from 1983 to 1998, went home to be with his Lord Dec. 16, 2014 at The Ephrata Manor surrounded by his loving family.

Born in Camden, N.J., he was the son of the late Theodore L. Soistmann and Ruth (Paulson) Soistmann Harrington. He was the devoted husband of Nancy Kathleen (Clifton) Soistmann for 55 wonderful years.

A student of Woodstown High School in New Jersey and graduate of Bullis Preparatory School, Ted continued on to the Naval Academy where he was a midshipman and seaman apprentice. Following his service in the military, he received his bachelor’s degree from Gettysburg College, masters from Rutgers University and EdD from the University of Tennessee.

The teachers, staff, and administration of the Ephrata Area School District expressed sadness over the passing  Dr.  Soistmann. Many teachers and staff who worked under his leadership still remain with the District today.

“Dr. Soistmann was extremely supportive and loved to see students and staff excel. He was seldom missed a school concert. In fact, I remember him attending an elementary band concert after just coming off a long flight. He will be sadly missed by the community,” said James Kimmel, District Related Arts Supervisor.

“While Dr. Soistmann held the office of District Superintendent in the 1980’s and 1990’s, his impact on our community lives on in the generation of our current parents who were Ephrata students under his tenure. He will be missed,” said Dr. Brian Troop, District Superintendent.

“He was an ‘old school’ superintendent who knew every one of us by name and what we taught and coached,” wrote Cheryl Fritz, an Ephrata High School teacher. “He visited every classroom every year and took time to talk to us.”

“I remember Dr. Soistmann well,” noted Nevie Dewhirst. “I also had his daughter, Kathleen, in drama club. May he rest in peace. A very sad day.”

“A real class act; true leader,” posted Mike DelPiano.

“He was truly one of a kind in his sincere caring about students and staff, said Bonnie Strohl. “A sad loss for all who knew and worked with him.”

Scott Eaby, a local attorney noted that Dr. Soistmann during the ‘80s and ‘90s was an active member of the Ephrata Rotary Club and initiated and conducted the successful student of the month program.

“Many worthy students and their parents were recognized each month with an invitation to a club meeting,” Eaby said. “The proud parents were introduced and the students were asked to give a talk about their life, interests and activities. Ted’s presentation was always top-notch and the exchange between the students and our members was very special.”

Eaby remembered that The Ephrata Review would highlight the occasion with a photo and short piece on the student’s accomplishments.

“It was great PR for our club, but more importantly a unique way to introduce young people to Rotary and public service,” Eaby noted. “Thanks, Ted. It was my pleasure to have known you.”

Dr. Soistmann served as school superintendent of Sauquoit Valley Central School, Sauquoit, N.Y.; Derry Township School District, Hershey, from 1974 to 1983 and retired from the Ephrata Area School District, Ephrata, where he was superintendent from 1983 to 1998.

Throughout his career he was a teacher, principal and college professor with a passion for education and “youngsters.”

Dr. Soistmann was very active at Ephrata Reformed Presbyterian Church where he served as an elder. Through the years he served in the following areas: President of the Ephrata Rotary Club, President of the Golden Years Club, member of the Eberbach Committee, life member of Phi Delta Kappa and Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, American Association of School Administrators and he was an Eagle Scout who also served as a Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America.

Angie Rutt Gornish worked with Dr. Soistmann when she taught an IU 13 multiple disabilities support class housed at Ephrata Middle School.

“He came to visit my classroom and spent time interacting with my students,” she noted. “He treated them like any other students in his district, with kindness and respect. In all my years of teaching and working in IU classes, he was the only superintendent I have ever seen do that.”

In his spare time, Dr. Soistmann enjoyed running, backpacking, traveling and camping with his family. He attended as many school music and sporting events as he possibly could to support his students and staff.

Surviving in addition to his wife, Nancy, are his children: David L. Soistmann, husband of Kirsten (Nagy) Soistmann of Yorktown, Va.; Heather C. Soistmann of Edgewater, Colo.; Kathleen R. (Soistmann) Walter, wife of Todd Walter of Landisville; seven grandchildren; and his sister: Nancy (Soistmann) Richmond, wife of Peter Richmond, of St. Simon’s Island, Ga.

Services were held Dec. 20 at the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Ephrata, with Rev. Thomas E. Nicholas officiating. Military honors were accorded by the Red Rose Veterans Honor Guard. Interment will be private at the convenience of the family.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Reformed Presbyterian Church, 21 East Locust Street, Ephrata, PA 17522.

Arrangements by Stradling Funeral Homes, Inc., Akron/Ephrata. Online condolences can be given at

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