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Awards / Honors

Celebrate! CSU Milestones commemorates Johannes Gesller's 45 years of service

April 16, 2012
by Amanda Zupan

CSU is once again honoring faculty and staff who have reached service milestones during the 2011-2012 fiscal year at Celebrate! CSU Milestones. The all-university event to commemorate years of service and retirement will take place at 3 p.m. Thursday, May 3, in the Lory Student Center Main Ballroom.

Early years in Switzerland

Gessler was born and raised in the city of Basel, Switzerland, during World War II. As a child, his dream was to travel the world as a Swiss merchant marine. That dream changed by age 13.

“By the time I was a teenager, I was already pretty much set on civil engineering,” Gessler said. “After graduating with my bachelor’s degree from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, I worked in a consulting engineering firm, planning hydro-power schemes in the Swiss Alps.”

Johannes Gesller's full career has spanned the planning of hydro-power in the Swiss Alps to studying erosion and sedimentation in rivers to living through the devastating flood of 1997 - and he's still enjoying being on the water.Landing at Colorado State

After finishing his Ph.D. at the Institute of Technology in Zurich, Gessler looked for a two-year post-doctorate program in the United States. “Because of some research going on at CSU in the area of erosion and sedimentation in rivers, I knew about the possibilities for doing a post-doc at the university,” Gessler said.

Gessler’s two-year post-doctorate at CSU eventually turned into a career. “The best part of my career is the fact that it has allowed me to move from one interesting assignment to the next, be it related to research, teaching, or administration,” Gessler said. “The appointment as interim department head and later as interim dean were other opportunistic twists in my career, bringing new challenges.”

Gessler says two of his proudest accomplishments occurred when he developed “a major algorithm for the optimal design of the expansion of complex water supply system,” and when he “got an opportunity while serving as interim dean to start the Honors Program in Engineering.”

Time as a CSU Ram

Gessler moved from 100 percent research in his early years to a mix of research and teaching to administrative roles within the college, including assistant department head and interim department head. He was eventually offered the position of associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Engineering.

“If I have to point to the most memorable experience at CSU, it must be the appointment as interim dean of the College of Engineering in July 1997,” Gessler said. “And the next night, the big flood hit campus.”

He explained how the vice president for Facilities called him at 3 a.m. to let him know his building has been flooded. Gessler’s wife asked, “As dean, do you get these kinds of phone calls every night?”

Life outside of work

Gessler particularly enjoys outdoor activities with his wife Seraina, including sailing, hiking, and skiing.

“We enjoy hiking the foothills behind town or wherever we are,” Gessler says. “When our kids were teenagers, we had fun downhill skiing mostly in Winter Park.”

Music is a big part of Gessler’s life. “My wife and I play the recorders in a number of ensembles, from the two of us all the way to a recorder orchestra with about 25 members,” Gessler said. “We play mostly Renaissance and Baroque works, but also quite a bit of contemporary music.”

The Gesslers also enjoy watching movies and traveling. “After our last child graduated from high school, we started out with a sabbatical year in the Republic of South Africa,” he said. “This year it will be Switzerland and Turkey. In March, we invited our kids and grandkids to Belize to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.”

CSU then and now

“When we arrived in Fort Collins in 1966, CSU had about 11,000 students and Fort Collins claimed to have 35,000 residents. Prospect Road was the south end of town,” Gessler said. “I am amazed how comfortable the campus still is and how pleasant Fort Collins remained as a place to live.”

Gessler retired in 2002 but has continued teaching courses on the side. He enjoys teaching honors sections of statistics, but he especially loves the additional time for hobbies, outdoor activities, and traveling.


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