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The Dartmouth
February 22, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Kessner '12 remembered for his energy and love of music

Jonny Kessner '12, an avid music lover with an adventurous spirit, died early Tuesday morning from a traumatic brain injury. He was 23.

Late Saturday night, Kessner fell down a flight of stairs in his East Village apartment in New York City, said Michael Kessner, one of his four brothers. Swelling in his brain intensified around 4 a.m. on Tuesday, cutting off oxygen to his brain stem, and doctors were unable to revive him.

Kessner had been working at Amber Property Management, a family-owned real estate business, alongside Michael Kessner and their father, Steve Kessner '73, since graduation.

He grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y., and was an economics major at Dartmouth, where he wrote for the music blog Big Green Beats and was a member of Bones Gate fraternity.

Michael Kessner said his brother had countless close friends from various communities including his high school, Dartmouth and a Semester at Sea program he participated in during his junior fall.

"He lived an incredible life," Michael Kessner said. "He was just a really special person, he had so many friends and everybody loved him and envied him. It was really incredible."

Jordan Weissman '12, who worked with Kessner for Big Green Beats, said the two became close listening to music and attending concerts together. They were roommates on the Semester at Sea program.

"I went around the world with him living in a room that was six feet by six feet and we never got in a single fight," Weissman said.

Miles Suter '11, who had gone on Semester at Sea a year earlier, said in an email that Kessner "reeked of cool."

"I didn't need to have known him for a long time. I immediately could see into his core, and that core was rock solid," he said.

Ghermayn Baker '12 said he and Kessner were inseparable as soon as they moved into Fahey-McLane residence hall in fall of 2008. Baker, who lived across the hall from Kessner that year and saw him frequently after they graduated and moved to New York, described him as exuding "positive vibes and happy energy no matter where he went."

"He was always in a great mood, always there to cheer people up when they were down," he said.

Anjelo Austria '12 added that Kessner "had no enemies."

Kessner was a visible campus presence, working at Collis and the First-Floor Berry information desk. In his junior summer, he interned at the advertising firm Young and Rubicam.

Kessner was a consistent contributor to the blog and had a knack for discovering new artists.

"His stuff was unlike any of the other stuff we would find, stuff that he could tell was going to be big, but was about six months or a year out still, stuff that didn't have buzz yet," Suter said. "With Jonny it was usually the case that he was just ahead of the curve."

BG president Michael Parets '14 said in an emailed statement that Kessner had an "infectious" love of life and his friends.

"You couldn't talk to him without walking away smiling," he said. "He will be sorely missed by everyone that knew him."

Suter recalled Kessner's visible passion for life as he celebrated Derby weekend by running through a mud pit outside the fraternity.

"I'll never forget the memory of his smile when I saw him running with Jordan," he said. "They looked like they literally would rather be nowhere else in the world."

Kessner could often be found on the basketball court, frequently organizing BG's intramural basketball team, and continued to play after graduation in a league with Dartmouth and Scarsdale friends.

In New York, Kessner served on the boards of two philanthropic organizations, Young Leadership of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and Steve's Camp at Horizon Farms, a nonprofit program for inner-city youth founded by his father.

A funeral at Scarsdale Synagogue is scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m.