Emory Report

October 19, 1998

 Volume 51, No. 8

Endowment honors distinguished Emory grad killed in ValuJet crash

The School of Law has received a gift of $510,000 to establish a scholarship endowment in memory of Kathleen Kessler, a 1972 law school alumna who was killed in the 1996 ValuJet Airlines crash. The gift was given jointly by the Miami law firm of Colson, Hicks, Eidson, Colson, Matthews & Mendoza and Atlantans Richard Kessler Jr. '71L and Grace Kessler, the husband and daughter of Kathleen Kessler.

The Kessler-Eidson Endowment will be used to fund scholarships for second- and third-year women students who have demonstrated a commitment to public service, along with interest and skill in trial advocacy. In addition, a room in the MacMillan Law Library will be named for Kessler, and a portion of the endowment will be used to fund Emory's nationally recognized trial techniques program, which will be named the Kessler/Eidson Trial Techniques Program.

"Throughout her career, Kathy Kessler was a trial lawyer, never fearing to speak her mind or to tackle unpopular causes if she thought she was right. She was a woman of sound ideals and principles who gave unselfishly of her time and talents for the good of her profession and for her frequently downtrodden clients who so badly needed her help," says Mike Eidson '71L, the Colson, Hicks, Eidson partner who represented the Kessler family in litigation stemming from the ValuJet crash. Eidson and his firm waived their legal fees in favor of establishing of the endowment.

Kessler said he and Grace see the scholarship as a fitting tribute to "one of the pioneers for women in trial practice on the plaintiff side."

"We are pleased that Dick Kessler and Mike Eidson have worked to establish this unprecedented endowment in memory of one of Emory's finest graduates and a leading member of the Atlanta legal profession whose tragic death brought great sorrow to all who knew her," said Howard Hunter, law school dean. "We are also grateful that something so positive has come out of this tragedy and that her legacy will continue at Emory for future generations of students."

A native of Miami, Kathleen Kessler practiced in Atlanta with the noted trial attorney Hugh Head after her graduation from the law school, becoming one of the few female trial attorneys in Georgia during the 1970s.

Following Head's retirement, Kessler developed a strong solo practice, representing individuals in employment and family law, personal injury and wrongful death cases. At the time of her death, she was chair of the General Practice & Trial Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia, the organization's largest section with almost 3,000 members. Her husband was chair of the Corporate and Banking Law Section, making them the first married couple to chair two sections.

--Elaine Justice

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