The origins of the Kessler Scholars Collaborative trace to the University of Michigan and a single but profound question:
What more could an already robust college scholarship program do to change the lives of more students?
That was the challenge that Judy Kessler Wilpon and Fred Wilpon, U-M alumni who founded the Kessler Scholars Program as a traditional college scholarship award, posed in 2016 to leadership in the university’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. To that point, the Kessler Scholars Program, named in honor of Judy Wilpon’s parents, Irene and Morris B. Kessler, had provided last-dollar scholarship awards to more than 200 students over an eight-year period. Its emerging alumni were embarking on careers across every professional field and demonstrating a commitment to giving back that had defined the scholarship and its recipients from the start.
What more, though, might be possible? And what students would benefit most from a rethink of college scholarship support?
This refined vision of the Kessler Scholars reflected Fred Wilpon’s own college journey: before he became known as a highly successful New York-based real estate developer and the longtime owner of the New York Mets baseball team, Fred Wilpon attended the University of Michigan in the 1950s as the first person in his family to pursue a college degree.
The early results from the revamped U-M program showed this was a model that worked. In 2021, the Kessler Scholars graduating cohort had a four-year graduation rate of 83%, higher than their first-generation peers starting at the same time in 2017 (75%) and nearly the same as peers whose parents had an earned bachelor’s degree (84%).
These ten ATI member institutions were selected to launch new Kessler Scholars Programs in fall 2023:
- Bates College
- Brown University
- Centre College
- Saint Mary’s College (IN)
- The Ohio State University
- University of California-Riverside
- University of Dayton
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- University of Pittsburgh, and
- Washington University in St. Louis.