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Edwin's Story

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Edwin Kessler, 3rd was born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 2, 1928, the oldest of three sons born to Edwin Kessler, Jr. and Marie Rosa Weil.

Although his younger years were spent in New York, his mother, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas returned to her hometown with her three children, while his father served in the military overseas. Edwin graduated from Corpus Christi High School in 1945.

Edwin returned to New York City later in 1945 to attend Columbia College, but in 1946 he left college temporarily and enlisted in the U.S. Army for 18 months. He was discharged as a Staff Sergeant in December 1947, and enlisted in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Reserve. He returned to Columbia early the next year, graduating in 1950. Edwin returned to Corpus Christi, Texas, and married his high school classmate, Lottie Catherine Menger, on May 28, 1950.

He then transferred from the Army to the Air Force and they moved to Cambridge, Mass., where he attended graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Greatly helped by Lottie, he received a doctorate in meteorology in 1958 with a minor in Astronomy at Harvard. Edwin was then a reserve lieutenant in the Air Force and was an occasional "weekend warrior" at Bedford Air Force Base in Massachusetts.

In the mid-1950s Edwin was employed in the Weather Radar Branch, Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories, on the summit of Great Blue Hill, Mass. It was during this time that their two sons were born, Austin Rainier Kessler and Thomas Russell Kessler. In 1960, the family moved to New Britain, Connecticut, and Edwin became the Director of the Atmospheric Physics Division at the Travelers Research Center in Hartford (where his paternal grandfather had been born in 1874).

In 1964, Edwin accepted the position as the first Director of the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA.) When asked, Lottie would tell people that the family moved to Norman because, "It had the worst weather in the world!" In May of 1965 he appeared on "To Tell The Truth" and introduced the NSSL to the broader American people. Serving until he retired in June of 1986, Edwin was one of the pioneers in the development of Doppler Radar, which revolutionized severe storm and tornado forecasting and detection, saving countless lives.

From 1974 until 1989, Lottie and Edwin lived on a farm 10 miles west of Purcell, Oklahoma, with vegetable gardens and some cattle. In 1989, this farm was donated to the University of Oklahoma, and additional acres were donated in 1998. It now comprises 350 acres and is a focus of OU activity, principally by the Departments of Botany and Microbiology.

During Edwin's professional career, he edited three books and authored a monograph of the American Meteorological Society. He was a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), a Councilor of the AMS, and served as Chair or member of several AMS committees. He was also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a Senior Member of the American Society for Aeronautics and Astronautics, a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, and a member of Sigma Xi and of the American Geophysical Union.

He received an award for outstanding authorship from NOAA and the Cleveland Abbe Award of the American Meteorological Society for "distinguished service through studies on severe storms, microphysical processes and radar meteorology". He lectured at MIT, Boston University, and at McGill University, Montreal, and taught meteorology courses at the University of Oklahoma, where he served as an Adjunct Professor beginning in 1964.

He authored or coauthored approximately 250 peer-reviewed articles on radar meteorology, aviation weather, precipitation physics, climatology, alternative energy, foreign trade, agriculture, environment, and politics. He also authored many Letters to the Editor, and various reports and essays that are not peer-reviewed. In 2008 and again in 2012, he authored chapters in two books edited by David Pimentel of Cornell University.

Subsequent to retirement, Edwin had a virtual second career, becoming active in Oklahoma politics. Perhaps most notably, he strongly opposed (unsuccessfully) the routing of a new highway through a rail yard at Oklahoma City's Union Terminal. In this, he was allied with many others, including Garner Stoll, OKC's former Planning Director; Tom Elmore, Exec. Director of the North American Transportation Institute; Evan Stair, Executive Director of Passenger Rail Oklahoma; and O. Gail Poole, artist.

During 1993-1999 Edwin served as Chair of Common Cause, Oklahoma, and after 1999 was Vice Chair. He also served on the boards of directors of the North American Transportation Institute and the Norman Sustainability Network. As recently as 2013, Edwin traveled to China to make a presentation on alternative energy, and was still publishing peer reviewed articles in professional journals, and consulting with the private sector on severe storms and weather-related aircraft accidents. He considered it his civic duty to be politically active and enjoyed writing letters to the editor on numerous important local and national issues. Ed enjoyed staying physically active and even into his 80's used his chainsaw to clear brush and cut firewood on the farm in Purcell, he maintained a sizable garden, a greenhouse, and raised chickens in his backyard in Norman,

Edwin was a true "jack-of all-trades", but unlike many who attempt to excel in more than one area, he was a master of most of them. He contributed greatly to the field of meteorology and, while many people deserve credit, he helped to establish Norman and the University of Oklahoma Meteorology Department as internationally recognized centers of excellence.

Edwin was predeceased by his wife, Lottie Menger Kessler in 2011, and his brother Jonas Weil Kessler in 2016. Edwin is survived by his brother John Whitlock Kessler, two sons, Austin and Thomas, four grandchildren, two great grandchildren, and numerous cousins. He was greatly admired, respected, and loved, and he will be sorely missed.
Published on  February 22, 2017
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