Larry (A.B. ’68) and Susan (B.S.Ed. ’70) Kessler have both had decades-long, successful international careers in disparate industries. Larry is a former chief administrative officer and general counsel at London’s Investcorp, while Susan was the co-editor of the prestigious Zagat London Restaurant Survey. Despite their different career trajectories, the couple credits their experiences at U-M with giving them some of the important tools necessary for success in their lives—both professional and personal.
Today, the Kesslers are showing their appreciation through a bequest that will create the Kessler Institute for the Study of Psychology in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. The institute, which aims to foster deeper research and new discoveries in the field, will support undergraduate and graduate student research as well as research by faculty members and visiting professors. The institute will also bring prominent speakers to campus to spark intellectual exchange, and it will fund an endowed directorship to drive its vision. Additionally, the focus of the Kessler Institute will change every five years in order to address psychology’s most pressing topics.
“My psychology degree has been one of the key drivers in both my career and my life,” says Larry. “It provided me with the framework and tools to set and reach most of my professional goals and to establish and grow many of my personal relationships.”
Although his parents were initially unsure about his path in psychology, Larry was undaunted. He credits his degree with preparing him to go on to pursue his juris doctor at Harvard Law School, as well as an M.B.A. at Columbia University.
“Equally important,” Larry says, “I have been able to build and maintain solid, long-term relationships with many people over the years—including some from U-M.”
That includes his wife, Susan—an education major at U-M who put the writing skills she gained in her studies to work in a long career in food journalism for magazines like New Woman, where she authored the New Woman Fast and Fabulous Menu Cookbook before becoming co-editor of the renowned Zagat Survey.
“I am delighted that we have made the decision to give back to the psychology department at U-M,” says Susan. “Larry’s choice of a psychology major has influenced us in so many ways, whether related to his business career or our personal lives.”
When asked for their favorite U-M memory, Susan and Larry have the same answer: going to the cinema on South University to see Oklahoma followed by dinner at the Brown Jug on their first date, 45 years ago.
Fond memories are what drove the Kesslers to give back, choosing the U-M Department of Psychology in order to ensure that it maintains its reputation for excellence as a leading program of its kind. They hope that the Kessler Institute will give faculty and students the resources to go deeper in their research.
“Many great ideas are born out of lateral thinking and alternative curriculums,” says Larry. “We hope the institute results in new and continually relevant ways of thinking, which can ultimately be pragmatically applied to make people’s lives better.”
The Kessler Institute will serve as an important resource for students and faculty in psychology, as well as a testament to the Kesslers’ continued regard for the place where they gained important life skills—and the place where they first met.