The professor’s room: Rich Kessel
An occasional series that explores the inner sanctums of academia – because clever people have interesting spaces.
August 14, 2018
Rich Kessel, Ph.D., has been with Metropolitan State University of Denver for nearly 20 years and jokes that he teaches everyone’s favorite class: public speaking.
“I absolutely love it,” Kessel said. “To see students on the first day of class introducing themselves to their shoes to on the last day just blowing you out of the water with really touching, emotional advocacy speeches, it’s amazing to watch.”
When he’s not in the classroom, Kessel retreats to his office to research the neuroscience of how humans process communication and to obsess over the effective uses of PowerPoint as a communication tool — surrounded by all the objects his wife kindly asked him to get out of their house.
The cover of the Marillion single “Kayleigh,” which inspired his daughter’s name, hangs on the wall alongside an autographed single of Bon Jovi’s “Bad Medicine” that reminds him of his time as a physician-patient communication consultant and a slew of other memorabilia. Stop by his office, and he’ll tell you about it all — he’s a great communicator.
- My fencing career was short-lived. I was aggressive and quick and earned a letter for it, but then I flipped a motorcycle and landed knees first, helmet second — which was the end of my fencing career. Because I was shy and I didn’t realize it was uncool to wear your letterman jacket in college, everyone assumed I fit the “dumb jock” stereotype.
- I’m a very big Roadrunner fan. Division II athletics is so much more personal than Division I. This hat and poster were signed by the basketball team a few years ago — and some of those players now play professionally in Australia.
- The thing that everybody knows me for is Porsche. A friend with cancer gave me her 1979 Porsche 911 to give to my daughter on the condition that I fix it up for her. I did a complete ground-up restoration, and it even won some awards.
- My undergraduate degree at the University of Oregon was in Asian studies with a Chinese emphasis, and I was part of the first-ever group of American foreign-exchange students to visit Beijing when the Communist Party started to open up in the 1980s. It absolutely changed my life. My graduation back in Oregon coincided with the beginning of the Tiananmen Square protests, so I added the Chinese characters for “Reform for democracy” to my mortarboard. Two days later, the tanks went through.
- I figured someday I would retire as a fine-art black-and-white photographer but never made the transition to digital. This photograph was taken backstage at an MSU Denver student fashion-design show in the Turnhalle.
- My Blackboard profile picture is my alter ego, Heisenberg (Walter White’s alias in the show “Breaking Bad”), and my son did the Heisenberg drawing. Every Halloween, I glue on a goatee, put on some brown clothes and my old glasses, and the transformation is complete.
- Kurt Cobain is my second cousin. I never knew him and didn’t even like Nirvana then, but one of my biological father’s daughters tracked me down a decade after his death and said, “Oh, by the way, you’re a Cobain.” My father’s mother and Kurt’s paternal grandfather were siblings.
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