Fresno State Philosophy Professor Emeritus and former Department of Philosophy Chair Warren Leslie Kessler passed away on April 2 in Stockton, California, after complications with an infection. He was 78.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, to Samuel and Ethel Kessler, he graduated from Weequahic High School. He received his B.A. in philosophy from Rutgers University, followed by his M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1968. His doctoral thesis examined aspects of Baruch Spinoza’s Ethics.
Also in 1968, he moved to Fresno to become a Professor of Philosophy with a focus on ethics, where he served for 38 years. During his time at Fresno State, he especially enjoyed teaching students to think critically about the most important issues confronting humanity. He used humor and outrageous hypothetical situations to foster student’s thinking on moral, political, economic and human rights issues.
“Warren was known for making jokes, lots of jokes. I am sure that everyone who remembers Warren will recall that he had a lot of one-liners that he was ready and willing to share,” Philosophy Professor Dr. Andrew Fiala said.
Kessler spent several years as the Department of Philosophy Chair before retiring in 2006.
Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities Dr. Honora Chapman said, “Dr. Warren Kessler transformed the lives of thousands of Fresno State students in his philosophy courses over his 38-year career here by teaching them how to think critically about society’s biggest challenges. Exemplifying the tenets of Spinoza, Dr. Kessler applied ethics to the workings of our campus as well as the community, thereby inspiring his colleagues and friends.”
Outside of his teaching at Fresno State, Kessler served as the State President of the United Professor of California, an AFL-CIO affiliated union, from 1975 to 1981.
“Warren’s field was ethics, and he was a committed activist for social justice, especially with respect to labor issues (from farmworkers to faculty) working with César Chávez and Dolores Huerta as well as serving as president of an early faculty union at the CSU,” said Chair of the Department of Philosophy Robert Maldonado, Ph.D.
From 1983 to 1991, he served as a Trustee for the State Center Community College District and from 1982 to 1998 was an Ethics Consultant for the Children’s Hospital of Central California. After retiring, he started the small business “Philosophical Images,” which sold a patented “Think Outside the Box” sculpture through high-end gift catalogs and online stores.
Kessler was preceded in death by his wife Jing (Gina) Zhou and was previously married to Carol Bassett and Jenny Natali. He is survived by his brother Judd Kessler.
Donations in his memory may be made to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Fresno Chapter (NAMI FRESNO) 7545 N. Del Mar #105, Fresno, CA 93711 Tax ID #77-0319190 or the Boys & Girls Club of Fresno County, 540 N. August St., Fresno, CA 93701 Tax ID #94-1149171.