Howard J. Kesseler, M.D. '44

Howard Kesseler died at home on July 19, 2006, of leukemia.  He is survived by his wife, Sally; children, Howard, Jr. and Heidi, and grandchild, Alexander.

Howard came to Amherst via Northwood School in the fall of 1940.  He embarked upon a pre-medical course, which he pursued with great success.  He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa his junior year and graduated on the then common accelerated schedule in June of 1943.  He then entered Cornell medical school and graduated in 1946.  From 1947 to 1949, he spent two years on active duty in the air force.

His post-graduate surgical training was done at Lenox Hill Hospital and New York Univ.  He remained a member of those staffs until his death and was appointed clinical professor of surgery at a variety of levels at New York Univ. and New York Medical College.

Howard was a pioneer in the then new subspecialty of vascular surgery.  These were the days when surgeons sewed their own vascular grafts of Dacron on their home sewing machines, because there were none on the market.  Sally taught Howard how to do this.  Howard authored or co-authored some twenty publications on a variety of topics.  In his late years, he was interested in the management of functioning tumors of the adrenals—a very tricky surgical problem that was a lot of hard work and little glory.  As he once remarked to me, “I do a lot of stuff that nobody else wants to do.”

My friendship with Howard started early in freshman year when we both pledged to DKE.  Subsequently, we hooked up with Lennie Zins and became roommates to the great benefit of us all.

Howard was a superb student.  When he attacked a book to study for the evening, he was gone . . . completely immersed and not distractible.  I tried as best I could to emulate him, with modest success.  I am forever in his debt for showing me how to study.

Howard was one of the most urbane men I have ever known, young or old.  He was raised in Manhattan, and it showed.  None of this, of course, impressed Zins very much . . . he was, after all, a Bostonian.  And I, the country boy, was caught between the immensities.

What a marvelous place to have been in those long-gone golden days.

—John Carpenter ’44