As a 10–year-old, Harry Kestler, studied his medical books looking for information about rheumatic fever. This is where the immune system responds to the earlier strep throat or scarlet fever infection and causes a generalized inflammatory response. But Kestler, who has a doctorate in microbiology and a professor at LCCC, was not studying the disease for academic purposes or to become a physician. “My little brother came down with rheumatic fever and this changed everything for my family. I have a tendency to obsess on things when I feel like I’m out of control. So as a 10-year-old, I’d begin looking into medical articles.”
But Kestler’s obsession didn’t end with his brother’s illness. Kestler attended Monroe Community College, New York, from 1974-1975, and later studied at the University of Rochester, also in New York, from 1976 to 1986. During his postgraduate studies at the University of Rochester, Kestler didn’t just study psychology and biology, he also taught it.
“I was a teaching assistant for genetics. I find teaching to be simultaneously terrifying and invigorating,” he said.
Kestler even attended Harvard MedicalSchoolfrom 1986-1991, studying molecular virology and later taking on the role of a research associate. Here, Kestler studied HIV/AIDS and assisted in the production of a vaccine against the disease, an effort that is still ongoing today. “I thought I would change the world by creating a vaccine for AIDS. In fact, I discovered one and developed a second one and we are working on a third right now,” Kestler said.
Kestler has been teaching at LCCC for 24 years. However, many wonder why a Harvard educated professor with legitimate research and major contributions to an important vaccination, chose to teach at a community college.
“Why a community college? When I left graduate school, a Beatles song stuck in my head. The third line from “Revolution” is “we all want to change the world” that line repeats many times in the song. It also repeats many times in my head, to this day,” he said.
“I have taught at many levels and it is my finding that there are brilliant people at Harvard University, the University of Rochester, Clark University (Massachusetts), Case Western University’s Lerner College of Medicine, and at Monroe Community College.”
“What is different about community colleges is opportunity. A student from Harvard it’s going to be successful no matter what I do. At LCCC, I have a chance and I hope to make a difference for my students because “we all want to change the world,” Kestler said.