He was able to graduate from the Army Specialized Training Program in Engineering, at Texas A&M (1945). After the Army, he went to Harvard University and earned an M.S. degree in mechanical engineering (1948). He then worked, for approximately two years, as a development engineer in the Instrument Division of the American Optical Company in Buffalo, New York, before he left to study for his Ph.D. at Columbia University. This work experience helped solidify a strong youthful fascination with machines. His longtime interest was further stimulated by subsequent summer jobs as a development engineer at Ford Instrument and American Machine and Foundry and as a member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories.
At Columbia University he encountered a major obstacle: No one on the faculty did research in kinematics of mechanisms. Fortunately, Professor H. Dean Baker, a specialist in combustion, agreed to be Freudenstein’s thesis supervisor and to allow him to work on mechanism kinematics, even though Baker himself knew very little about the subject. For the rest of his life, Ferdinand was extremely grateful for what he considered an act of great kindness and generosity on Baker’s part.
After Ferdinand received his Ph.D., he was appointed to an assistant professorship in Columbia University’s mechanical engineering department. His career up the academic ladder was meteoric. In less than three years he was promoted to associate professor. Then one year later he became the chairman of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, a post he held for six years. After only two years as an associate professor, he was promoted to the rank of professor (1959).
In the same year, at the age of 33, he married Leah Schwartzchild. Their first child, David, was born on February 3, 1961, and their second child, Joan, was born on February 6, 1964. The young family took up residence in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, where they purchased a comfortable three-story brick house on a quiet residential street. Ferdinand lived in that house for the rest of his life.
As a researcher, he had made his mark early with his