RITís College of Business Announces 2002 VandenBrul Award Winners

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Larry and Dennis Kessler recognized for entrepreneurial achievements

Kessler Group Inc., based in Brighton, has become a leading food services provider across upstate New York. In recognition of that achievement, owners Larry and Dennis Kessler have been named winners of the 2002 Herbert W. VandenBrul Entrepreneurial Award, presented annually by Rochester Institute of Technologyís College of Business.

"The Herbert W. VandenBrul Award symbolizes the link that joins RIT with the Rochester-area business community," says Dean Thomas Hopkins, RITís College of Business. "Our aim is to spark the entrepreneurial spirit in todayís students by exposing them to the stories of people whose exceptional accomplishments have led to business success. The Kessler Group is one of those success stories that will have tremendous value to our students."

The Kessler Group originated in1975 when Larry opened his first Burger King restaurant in Irondequoit. Dennis joined the business two years later. Today, the brothers own and operate 22 Burger King outlets and 41 Friendlyís restaurants across the upstate region.

"Dennis and I are immensely proud to be named as recipients of the VandenBrul Award," states Larry. "During the last 27 years, there have been many lessons learned, and we strive to share that with our managers. Everyday, we challenge them to be entrepreneurial in spirit, to not be afraid of making mistakes and to learn and grow with each and every experience."

As Dennis explains, "Itís also important to talk about our experiences with students. They need to do more than study business. I challenge them to do business and to invest their time and talents in the Rochester community. The community thrives and functions because of commerce, and I salute RIT for setting an example by being so visible in the community."

Larry Kessler received a bachelorís degree from Adelphi University in 1965. He started his career on Wall Street and was promoted to vice president at Walston & Co. after just five years with the firm. In 1974, Larry was recruited by the retail brokerage firm Thomas, McKinnon, Auchincloss, Kolhmeyer as senior vice president. He founded Kessler Group a year later. Larry has served as a board member for the American Red Cross, Jewish Family Services, Jewish Home of Rochester, and Hillel Foundation. He also served as president of the board for the Jewish Community Center. He has two children and four grandchildren and lives in Pittsford with his wife, Karen.

Dennis Kessler graduated from City University of New York with a bachelorís degree. He earned his masterís degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and later was awarded a law degree from Yale University. Dennis served as a faculty member at City University of New York, Brooklyn College and Queens College, and he has written books and articles on criminal justice and popular culture. He has been a member of the Rochester Police Department Police Chiefís Interaction Council and vice president and founding member of the Monroe County Sheriffís Foundation. Dennis has served as a board member for Hillel School, Do the Right Thing Program of the Rochester Police Department and the Jewish Community Federation. He lives in Rochester with his two children.

Created in 1984, RITís Herbert W. VandenBrul Entrepreneurial Award goes annually to an individual who successfully developed a business that improved the Rochester economy or whose innovative management skills have changed the course of an existing business. Other recent winners include Richard Sands, Constellation Brands Inc.; Christine Whitman, CVC Inc.; Norman and Nelson Leenhouts, Home Properties of New York, Inc.; and Dilip Vellodi, the Sutherland Group, Ltd.

MEDIA NOTE: RIT will honor Larry and Dennis Kessler at noon on Wednesday, March 19, during an invitation-only luncheon at Gatherings at the Inn on Broadway, downtown Rochester. To cover the presentation, contact Paul Stella, RIT University News Services, at 475-4950 or pbscom@rit.edu.