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Thank you, Hal!

Reception in Orlando, Florida
Honoring Hal Kassarjian
ACR 2006


I have known Hal Kassarjian for 37 years.  Hal played a major role in getting me into consumer behavior in the first place.  In 1968 I had finished my coursework in operations research but was interested in decision making. I didn’t know in what direction to take my dissertation.  I saw a copy of Hal and Tom Robertson’s 1968 book of readings in consumer behavior and decided that this was a great direction for my dissertation. 

When I arrived at UCLA, I had been hired into the production group. Hal took me aside and told me to hang out with the marketing faculty because they were “much cuter and more interesting.” His warmth and enthusiasm made me feel welcome in marketing and led me to many career-long friendships. Hal also helped me interpret the reviews on my first paper (“No, it’s not the end of your career, dummy, it’s basically an acceptance!”), got me to go to the first ACR at the University of Massachusetts, and convinced me to be co-editor of JCR with him.

Those of you who know Hal know that he is “anti-low-key.” Hal taught me by example the value of enthusiasm and passion about ideas.  If one brought him an idea, he would get very excited about it and encourage you to go forward with it.  This led to people exploring interesting ideas that might otherwise have gotten squashed early on.

Hal also has a very funny side.  He was involved in several “classic” situations that have led to “Hal tales” down through the years.  One story involved recruiting at the AMA.  Candidates would come into hotel rooms to be greeted by a room full of faculty who then listened to the candidate’s dissertation spiel.  One year, after a particularly grueling day of candidates, Hal was on the bed in the room.  As the last candidate droned on, Hal got sleepier and sleepier until there was a loud “bump” as he hit the floor after falling off the bed.  This story could be apocryphal; I was at most of these recruiting sessions and do not remember this happening – however, as those of you who know me can attest, I may have missed it because I was also asleep!  A second Hal classic occurred at an AMA Doctoral Consortium where the host school decided to stress relevance in every session.   At the end of one session in which relevance had been touted very heavily, Hal raised his hand, stood on a chair at the back of the room, and pronounced “this is all a huge pile of “expletive deleted!”

Finally, Hal is as cute and lovable as he claims.  His upbeat nature and sense of humor made him beloved to all of us. Hal was also always very public-spirited and policy-oriented.  One of his little-known contributions to policy was his attempt to fight notions of ideal figures and pernicious attempts to say that people must be skinny. Hal always asserted that the ideal body type was the pear-shape, and no one who knows Hal could disagree.

In conclusion, I am proud to have known Hal and claim him as a mentor for all these years.  Happy retirement from JCR, Hal!

Jim Bettman


A Tribute to Hal Kassarjian on his Retirement from JCR

DEBBIE:  Valerie and I are here to represent the women in Hal’s life…not his lovely wife Traute, or daughters, or nieces…but, the female faculty and doctoral students that Hal has mentored during his time at UCLA.  We simply adore Hal!

One of my first memories of Hal is from an ACR Conference, where I found him completely surrounded by young women.  This was not an uncommon occurrence at conferences, and every once in a while, another conference attendee would notice it and ask Hal why he was so popular with the women.  Hal would usually say something like, “Because I’m so damn cute.”  So, when I was asked to speak this evening, I thought about Hal’s popularity with our gender and why he is so special to us (other than the fact that he is so damn cute!).

There is no doubt that Hal has always had a special affinity and deep concern for junior faculty and doctoral students.  He was especially supportive of many female faculty members and doctoral students.  We forget that just 20 or 25 years ago, female faculty members were rare birds in top flight research universities.  I think that Hal had a sense that we needed a bit of extra support and offered it when we needed it the most.

I remember one particular incident where Hal provided me with the support I needed.   I was in my second year as an assistant professor at UCLA.  At that time, assistant professors were reviewed in their second year by the school-wide promotions and tenure committee.  Hal was appointed to accompany me to the Dean’s office to listen to the committee’s evaluation of my performance at my second year review.   The committee tried to be helpful in making suggestions for my future research endeavors, even though they knew very little about my research area or training.  As a result, one of the major suggestions for developing my research in the future was to switch away from doing research with children to a different area where I could make more of an impact.  I remember speaking to Hal after the meeting…asking him what he thought of the advice.  In true Hal style, he simply said, “Oh, who cares…screw them!”  This is exactly how I felt!  It was great to get that support from Hal…and I’m sure glad I didn’t take the advice!

In sum, that’s why we adore Hal…. His support, mentorship, advice, and concern for us.  I think that about sums it up, right Valerie?

VALERIE:  Well, wait a minute…Let’s not forget the special role Hal has in many of our colleagues’ lives, extending beyond those of the doctoral students and faculty members where he was employed. That impact is not limited just to his work. People are familiar with the Kassarjian name from many articles, such as his classics "Personality and Consumer Behavior” and “Content Analysis of Consumer Behavior.” That content analysis article is one of the most highly cited articles published in JCR.  Hal’s impact on so many people in our field has been broader than even his long term as JCR co-editor might suggest. Hal has always been inclusive in his sense of what we should be studying, partly because of his love of great ideas – regardless of where they come from.   Despite Hal’s strong grounding in his own theoretical orientation, he was an early supporter and advocate of the Odyssey project, a research endeavor that was the forerunner and path breaking start of the post positivist or interpretivist movement in CB. His support of that novel project reflects an intellectual breadth and lack of arrogance about his own point of view that is rare among us academics. As a leader of ACR, his openness to new ways of doing things and his sincere welcome to those who might not be perceived as having the “right” pedigree for our field have been important values that have helped to make this organization flourish.

Perhaps one key to Hal’s great success as a mentor, both within formal mentoring relationships and beyond those formal ones, is that he somehow manages that balance of   fostering and supporting new ideas while still being acutely observant, and conveying critical insights. Another key is that despite having achieved so much, Hal is incredibly modest and unaffected. He relishes the self deprecating anecdote. We adore Hal for all those reasons, including his breezy and buoyant good humor and his warm hearted and lively personality – besides the fact that he is so damn cute.

Valerie Folkes, USC

Debbie Roedder John, University of Minnesota

Comments on the Recognition of Hal Kassarjian's Retirement at 2006 ACR Conference

I first ran into Hal in 1962. He had recently joined the marketing faculty and was making the transition from psychology. I was trying to figure out what to do, aside from watching Johnny Wooden’s basketball practices.

Working with Hal as my dissertation chairman was a wonderful experience. Hal had three core values that impacted my career, and I think the careers of all the PhD students who followed me at UCLA.

First, Hal is incredibly supportive. Simply put, his goal is to help every doctoral student succeed in what he or she does best. He would never force students along career paths and into research domains that are better suited for others. Hal has an amazing ability to be nonjudgmental and respectful of others’ preferences without compromising his deeply rooted values and standards.

Second, Hal has deep respect for underlying theory. He always understood the difference between clever empirical work and a search for knowledge. Studies can be run to demonstrate a full range of outcomes that are limited only by the researcher’s ability to tailor situations and alter study participants’ goals and preferences. Hal taught me to search for underlying regularities in psychological processes that give rise to behavior and to think broadly. How could anyone provide better guidance than that?

Third, Hal told everyone who would listen that “research should be fun.” I think some have misunderstood that message, so let me tell you what I have always thought he meant.

To start with, it means that if you view research as something you do primarily for tenure and salary raises, you may achieve those goals without achieving a great deal of personal satisfaction or even much of a legacy. But there is a much deeper meaning.

Scholars are people engaged in the process of discovery. They are not inspired by adding lines to their resumes, or finding slightly different ways to demonstrate what is already known, or even trying to find clever ways to “flip” findings in a crossover interaction (unless if the moderator causing the flip is real and knowledge would be advanced).

Discovering something, on the other hand, is both fun and exciting. We can sense that when we read papers that actually answer a question or explain what had been puzzling: it’s fun and exciting to read them. The social and behavioral sciences would be a lot better off if, like Hal, more of us would instill that orientation in their doctoral students. There might be fewer papers on a resume, and promotion committees might even have to read, discuss and evaluate them rather than simply count them. That, I’m sure, would bring a grin to Hal’s face!

So, Hal, I quite agree that research should be fun. And I thank you for doing all you have done to encourage us to learn more about our fellow man through real scholarship in this field over five exceptional decades.

Finally, this celebration is long overdue. Hal retired from UCLA some time ago, without the sort of acknowledgment he clearly deserved for his extraordinary contributions to their marketing program and, sad to say, also from a seemingly preoccupied ACR. Hal, given your clinical training, perhaps you can be coaxed out of retirement to help us understand ACR’s often myopic and inconsistent values and behavior. But let’s leave that for another day. For tonight, with all your many friends gathered for this special occasion, let’s all celebrate an academic life well-lived and a person well-loved.

Joel B. Cohen

Tribute to Hal Kassarjian

Hal is my academic grandfather….

Joel Cohen, who was Hal’s first Ph.D. student at UCLA, was my chairman, so I have always felt a special bond with him.

I had the opportunity to meet Hal for the first time in 1971 at a conference at the University of Illinois. He was warm and fuzzy and charming and funny and all those other things we love about him.

So, in 1972 when I was on the job market, I was quite confident when I knocked on the door of the UCLA suite.  After all, I was a personal friend of “the man”.  You can imagine my surprise when the door opened to reveal Hal sitting cross-legged on the middle of the bed, with a foot-long black stogies in his mouth and a scowl on his face.  “Well, Lutz,” he snarled, “UCLA is publish or perish. Do you think you can handle it?”   I was taken aback, and before I could answer, he broke into his characteristic jovial laughter.

Such was my introduction to UCLA, which I have always maintained was the best place in the discipline to be an assistant professor.

Your first assistant professor position is akin to the consumer socialization process. It’s where you learn the profession and, just as important, how to be a colleague.  I was fortunate enough to be an assistant professor at UCLA with Hal as the senior faculty member.  Learning from him about how to be a colleague reminds me of Robert Fulghum’s “All I ever need to know, I learned in Kindergarten.”  So with apologies to Mr. Fulghum, substitute “Hal” for kindergarten….

Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand box at nursery school.

These are the things I learned. Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people.  Put things back where you found them.  Clean up your own mess.  Don’t take things that aren’t yours.  Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody.  Wash your hands before you eat.  Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life.  Learn some and think some and draw some and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday.

Take a nap every afternoon.   When you go out in the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.  Be aware of wonder.  Remember the little seed in the plastic cup?  The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why. We are like that…

Think of what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about 3:00 every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap.  Or we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put things back where we found them and clean up our own messes. And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Hal, thanks for welcoming me into your UCLA kindergarten 33 years ago.  It has been a LOT of fun!

Rich Lutz

More words of affection and praise !


You are a pillar of our community.  And a wonderful person.  Thank you so much for your contribution, ideas and personality - all of which have added to our field.

Jennifer Aaker

I have been remarkably fortunate to know Hal Kassarjian for over 25 years. We first bonded during several annual week-long American Marketing Association doctoral consortiums. On these occasions we conspired mightily to embarrass and otherwise give a hard time to several of the participants, most particularly Shelby Hunt and Dave Aaker. The real role that Hal played there and throughout his career is to give blunt, helpful advice to young scholars. I have witnessed many such encounters when Hal told neophytes about how the academic game was played, what to avoid and, of course, what was a good career move. He picked on the best scholars and was warm and caring for those just learning the trade

Hal was also instrumental in arranging for me an extended visiting professorship at UCLA at a time when my wife was just starting her career in the law profession. This was a wonderful time when a lot of imaginative and talented scholars were there like Bob Meyer, Sunil Gupta, Barbara Kahn, Jim Bettman, Lee Cooper, Mike Hanssens, Greg Carpenter, Joan Meyers-Levy and Ronnie Goodstein. Fridays very often meant rollicking get-togethers in town or parties at faculty homes. Most memorable were the annual Christmas festivities that the Kassarjians put on at their home. Lots of European delicacies, conviviality and, as usual, a lot of poking fun at each other!

Hal Kassarjian is best known to many of us for his sense of humor. I can recall a story he told of testifying on some advertising case and being asked about some contradictions in his testimony. Of course, Hal responded “OK, I lied!”

From those many years and through today, I have been stuck again and again by Hal’s love and respect for his wife, Traute. Traute would regularly accompany Hal to Association for Consumer Research meetings even when her eyesight began to fail. They traveled to many parts of the world together. And, the stories of their adventures not only were great travelogues, but also wonderful testimony of how much they cared for each other.

Like hundreds of people – perhaps thousands if you count his students over the years -- I have found my life much richer – and more fun -- by knowing Hal. And I, for one, expect further enrichment – and amusement -- in the next decades.

Alan R. Andreasen

Dear Hal,

Thanks for being a mainstay not only of JCR but of consumer research.   You have been the pioneer with your books, papers, wit, and wisdom.  Your leadership has helped to make the field of consumer research.   Your irreverence and cut to the chase honesty has been a wonderful thing in a field that can sometimes take itself too seriously.  Your openness to new ideas was best demonstrated to me in your work on the Odyssey.   You played a big part in making it happen.  During your tenure as editor of JCR you also showed a wonderful openness to new ideas.   You are a fellow of ACR with very good reason.  Please know that you have a loving cadre of admirers.  I hope you will continue to be a part of ACR meetings.  You are an institution and a legend.

Russ Belk

Hal Kassarjian was a terrific influence on my days as a new consumer researcher. Hal taught me a lot about conducting consumer research. I remember that he would often ask, “If I were a subject, what would I actually do?” This question, I realized, while deceptively simple, made me think about important issues in terms of what could really be learned from a particular experiment. Hal’s intellect and energy are boundless.

Meg Campbell


I hope I will have as much energy and love for research as you do when I retire (I am working on getting up there in the first place).

Kristin Diehl

Dear Hal (aka “Old Fart”):

I’m not sure whether or not I really have anything to say to you right now.   You see, before ACR, I really thought I was special.  I thought our relationship was unique.  I believed that you and I had bonded in an extraordinary way, distinct from all others, exceptional and true.  But no, at ACR I learned the horrible, awful truth.  I am just one of the hundreds of women you have mentored and encouraged in our profession. It appears you are willing to lavish your attention, to advise and counsel, to promote and support many, many women, all at the same time!  I am but one of hundreds of women who love you, and I don’t know if I can handle that. So, Hal, maybe it is a good thing that you are retiring.  Because now that we all know about the other women in your life, it might get kind of ugly.  Jealousy is never pretty, especially among intelligent marketing professors. I think you’d better run fast, because you’ve been “outed.”

Seriously, though, I want to thank you profusely for all you have done for me. I wake up every day, happy about my chosen career path. There were two important decisions to get me to where I am today and you were critical in both of them.  The first was to pursue my PhD in marketing, which you strongly encouraged me to do, and the second was to go to Duke to work with Jim Bettman, which again you unselfishly advised me to do.  Besides marrying Rafa, these may have been the two most important decisions in my life and you helped me make the right choices for me. I will always love and appreciate you for that, no matter how many other women you have helped in the same way. (In fact, your support for women in our field makes me love you even more, if that’s possible).

You are a very special person.  Know that you are loved.

Jenny (aka “Girly Girl”)

Thoughts on Hal

From Susan Fournier

One of my earliest ACR memories is the smiling face of Hal.   I was a mere undergraduate at the time and my marketing professors had encouraged me to attend ACR “to see what the life of a consumer research academic was really all about.”   Hal was the prototype that I met that weekend.  And here I am …26 years later and still aspiring to be Hal.

When I was a graduate student at Illinois (a hundred years ago), Hal was a visiting professor there. We worked together and I got to know and admire him as just about anybody who meets him has/does. What amazed me among other things was that Hal was so friendly and so honest with people that he could get away with telling them just about anything. Honest-to-goodness, I once was present when he told a secretary that her dress wasn't very attractive--but he did it in his own inimitable way--so that she THANKED HIM for it!! (If I had tried to do it, I think I would have gotten slapped)!

More seriously, at that time, Hal, Joel Cohen and I were working on a project that was ultimately published in JMR. At one point Hal stepped out, with the comment that as a young graduate student, I would benefit from authorship on a publication far more than he would/could; (recall that in those ancient days 3,4,5 authors per paper was much less common). It was typical of just how gracious and helpful he has been as a mentor and colleague to so many over his long career.

Marv Goldberg

Hal, Dear Hal

I was so sorry that I missed your reception and the various related festivities.  For me, it turned out that three trips to Florida within a month's time were just one too many; so I opted out of ACR this year.  This was painful because, as you can imagine, it is my favorite conference in general.  But the greatest pain for me, in particular, was missing the chance to congratulate and thank you in person.

Maybe you and I alone know how much you have done for me personally over the years - as editor, colleague, and friend.  I am not sure that I have ever really had the opportunity to thank you adequately.  And, even though my current attempt may fall far short of adequacy, I mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say THANK YOU for all you have done for me.

You have been an inspiration as a scholar and as an organizer and as a participant in various professional events.  But ... far, far beyond that ... you have been an inspiration as one of the most truly kind, decent, generous, compassionate, thoughtful, dedicated gentlemen I have ever known.  I am tempted to pull out my thesaurus so that I can cover the range of good things I would like to say about you, but I'm guessing that you get the point.  Put simply, there is nobody in our field or, indeed, in my larger world of experience who has done so many nice things for so many people and who has thereby won the admiration and friendship of so many who love him for it.

Just to pick one example, among many, I believe that you showed a level of compassionate decency in your role as JCR editor that should set the standard for all others to emulate.  For instance, my own "Out of Africa" paper would never have seen the light of day, were it not for your help and encouragement.  Publishing this paper gave me a chance to pursue a subsequent stream of research that would otherwise have been lost to me.

I wish that I could write a song for you.  But, as you have had occasion to observe, I am not a very good singer.  Instead, let me just say that my heart sings when I contemplate your good works.

Peace and Love,

I remember watching Hal at the Doctoral Consortium, held when I was at Wharton, where he spent time, I am sure, with every single doctoral student, no matter what their interest or school.  I am sure this is not the first time he did it, but it was singularly impressive.

That and the fact he gave me a hard time for not pronouncing jimaca correctly, which I served that night at a party at my house.   So Hal, I looked it up :ji·ca·ma (Spanish: hee-kah-mah).

Best of luck...

Eric Johnson

One of the things I remember most about Hal from when I was at UCLA was his strong desire to make sure the junior colleagues had a say in everything. He felt that their opinions mattered most.

I'm sure many people will recount these anecdotes, as they are “classic Hal ,” but I'll quickly note some of them down here anyway.

Hal was always priceless in AMA interviews ... you would never know what he would say or do.  The most famous one was when we had a quantitative modeler candidate (not one of  Hal's favorite kinds) and Hal fell off the bed in the middle of the interview ... can't remember whether he had dozed off or what ... but Hal’s shenanigans certainly made this a memorable interview – and I guess it worked, because we ended up hiring the candidate!

There's also the famous Hal story about when he went up to someone at ACR and asked if she was pregnant, and of course she wasn’t ... sigh.

Hal was also a favorite with the media; you could always count on him for a salty sound bite.  And I learned my first lessons about consulting from Hal, but I was always losing money with his sage advice. For example, one time I went for a consulting interview, I didn’t get the job, and I ended up with a parking ticket.

Geez, I can't even think about ACR without him.  ACR – Hal, they’re synonyms in my mind. He was always so great with the junior people (regardless of what school they were from). Hal always made everyone feel part of the group ...  No one could call him "cliquish" -- he was delighted to include anyone and delighted to insult us all evenly as well!

He was always talking about my and my female colleagues’ "ankles" ....but I can't remember if said that they were fat or thin – or which was better or worse!  And forget about how he teased waitresses … but the irony is that they all loved him anyway.

And then of course, there was the famous roast at ACR one year after Jim and Hal stepped down from JCR ... and Joel Cohen did that famous Wizard of Oz skit about Jim needing a heart, and Hal needing a brain – so funny because so true to stereotype and so far from the truth (in both cases).

No doubt about it, Hal is one of my favorite people.  I know that this doesn't do justice to my respect, love, awe of Hal – but we can’t all be as good a writer as he is.

Barbara E. Kahn

My great admiration for Hal is based on many of the same traits and actions that have so impressed others :

He is warm, kind, and giving.  He is a complete class act who focuses on the greater goal, the greater good.  He behaves with utter grace while still being playful and funny.   His work reflects creativity, depth of thinking, knowledge of many disciplines, and a full and true sense of people. Which is more, his work has reflected these fine characteristics consistently over many years, suggesting an inner man of great talent, integrity, and flexibility.    His work was always fresh, while still building a coherent whole.  I have admired him from the beginning of my career and I consider running into him as ACR one of the highlights of the conference.  I hope he still comes to the conference as he will be sorely missed.

Ann McGill

Dear Hal –

My personal best wishes for many years of health and happiness in retirement.  I will always be grateful for your honesty and guiding hand when I sent my first manuscript to JCR in 1985 (on semiotics and consumer research).  It was a weird topic at a time when the field was just starting to open up to new research paradigms and some pretty far-out theories.  You offered me positive encouragement and patience, as I worked through several revisions to prepare the manuscript for publication.  Your concern and vision came at a crucial formative stage in my career that truly carried me in the years that followed as I struggled with other projects and manuscripts to get them published in JCR.  Your early support was also influential in my deciding eventually to submit my name and vita for consideration as a next editor of JCR.  Your support on the JCR Policy Board then was also important to my resolve for carrying on with the research and career goals I believed in.  I particularly sought to edit JCR with the same honesty and guiding hand for younger scholars that you once gave to me.  As it is often said, what goes around, comes around.  Your legacy in consumer research carries on, and will continue for a long time through the lives and research of all the other scholars you have touched.

Best wishes always,

David Mick

Dear Hal—

Just a few days ago I looked on my shelf for a copy of the Handbook of the Consumer Behavior. I opened the cover, saw your signature on the first page and remembered vividly visiting you in your office, and receiving the book from you, during my first week as a PhD student. I came away from that first meeting with you full of laughter and smiles, inspiration and a sense that I had made the right decision to join the PhD program.  It was my great privilege to be at UCLA while you were there.  Thank you for your friendship and support and your wise-cracking remarks at just the right time!  

Love to both you and Traute,

Patti Williams


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