Dr. Lawrence Kessler
DR. LAWRENCE KESSLER Dr. Lawrence Kessler passed away in his home in Leland on August 10, 2020, of complications from Parkinson's Disease. Born in New York City, May 15, 1936, Professor Kessler leaves behind his wife, Bonnie Bechard, three children, Karen, Warren and wife Traci, Rob and wife Kelly. Also step-children, Sean, Ben and wife Michelle. He also leaves behind a sister, Mella, and six grandchildren, Taylor, Julian, Greyson, Cameron, Morgan, and Lauren. Dr. Kessler received his Ph.D. in History from University of Chicago and was awarded both a Fulbright and a National Defense Fellowships to study in Taiwan. His long and distinguished career as a professor of East Asian and Chinese history at UNC Chapel Hill began in 1966, where he taught for more than three decades. Among his scholarly publications was The Jiangyin Mission Station: An American Missionary Community in China, 1895-1951, focusing on the history of a Christian mission near Shanghai established by the First Presbyterian Church in Wilmington NC. Dr. Kessler worked tirelessly to promote Asian Studies in the Southeast. He was a driving force in the creation of a major in Asian Studies at UNC and then an Asian Studies Department where he was its first Chair. Larry was a founding member of the Triangle East Asian Colloquium, which has sponsored conferences and presentations pertaining to East Asia for faculty members at universities and colleges. He organized and participated in outreach programs to help K-12 teachers incorporate material about Asia into their lesson plans. He was among the first academics to visit China in 1976 as the People's Republic began to welcome foreign visitors and then became the director of the North Carolina China Council, was elected president of the Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies and served as editor-and-chief of the Southeast Review of Asian Studies. His family is especially proud of his years of activism in the 1960s and 1970s, as a leader of faculty participating in anti-war activism, civil rights marches, and supporting women's rights. A good friend and faculty member at UNC summed it up: "many, many others always admired him as a dedicated scholar, devoted teacher, engaged citizen, and a warm and steady friend. He was a man of humor, intelligence, and integrity."
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Published by Wilmington Star-News from Aug. 14 to Aug. 25, 2020.
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Renee Gannon
September 2, 2020
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