Edgar A. Pessemier

Edgar A. (“Mike”) Pessemier (1922 – 1999)

Mike Pessemier grew up in Washington state. After serving in the military from 1943 – 46, he got his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame. His master’s degree was from NYU. He received his DBA from the Harvard Business School. Later, he attended the Institute of Basic Mathematics for Application to Business that was jointly run by the Harvard Business School and MIT. He served on the faculties of Washington State University, Krannert School of Management at Purdue University, and The University of Virginia Darden School of Business. 

Mike Pessemier made contributions in a number of areas of marketing. He was a pioneer in the use of experimental methods to forecast the demand and sales of branded products. He wrote influential papers on the use of multi-attribute attitude models, the relationship between attitudes, preferences and purchases, variety seeking, multidimensional scaling, organ donation, and acceptance of innovations. Many of these areas were related to an overall interest in the use of analytical tools to aid in the development and introduction of new products. He published books on his topic over an almost 30-year period (in 1965, 1977, and 1993).

Gurumurthy Kalyanaram (G.K.), a student and faculty colleague of Frank Bass, observes, "Mike Pessemier and Frank Bass formed a formidable doctoral and research team at Purdue for more almost two decades in the 1960s and 1970s.  They complemented each other seamlessly and productively.  Together, they developed and nurtured many scholars, teachers and thinkers.  I recollect Frank Bass speaking about Mike with much fondness.  Bass' and Mike's interests overlapped substantially in more than one area – such as New Products.  But their intellectual and research approaches were different, though they were complementary and very productive. The doctoral and research program at Purdue benefitted enormously from this diversity.  Dick Wittink, a 1975 doctoral alumnus of this program, speaks to this clearly in his 2004 dated autobiographical essay when Dick writes, "Purdue’s Krannert School, due to Frank Bass and Mike Pessemier, had achieved a strong reputation."  Mike  was instrumental directly and/or as a catalyst in enhancing the professional careers of so many distinguished scholars – those who graduated from Purdue and beyond."

Don Lehmann, Leigh McAlister and Mike Hanssens recollect Mike’s counsel and help with much gratitude.

Donald (Don) R. Lehmann, an early doctoral student of Frank Bass (late 1960s), and now the George E. Warren Professor of Business at Columbia University, remembers Mike from both the MSIA and PhD programs. He was a demanding MSIA case teacher that showed his experience at the Harvard Business School. Mike was a member of Don’s dissertation committee.  Don remembers how Mike was instrumental for one of his seminal research outputs: “He (Mike) noted I was using a multi-attribute model and gently said as I was asking people to rate 6 attributes on 20 TV shows that "you realize, all they will really be telling you is how well they like the show". I did not fully appreciate the comment until I reversed the weights they gave on the attributes and found the predictions were essentially unchanged. This led to my paper on the halo effect with Neil Beckwith (JMR, 1975) which was a big contributor to my "tenure packet".”

Leigh M. McAlister, a doctoral alumna from Stanford University, and now the Ed and Molly Smith Chair in Business Administration, Department of Marketing, University of Texas at Austin remembers gratefully, “Mike Pessemier gave me a boost as I was starting my career.  I was at the University of Washington and he summered in Seattle.  He reached out to me and engaged me in a research project that turned into my most highly cited publication—a literature review of variety seeking.  I needed his boost.  There was no reason for him to be so helpful to me except for the fact that he was a generous soul.”

Dominique (Mike) M. Hanssens, a doctoral student of Frank M. Bass who graduated in 1977, and now a Distinguished Research Professor of Marketing, UCLA Anderson School of Management, had the following memory, “Even though I ended up working with Professor Frank Bass on my doctoral dissertation at Purdue, I benefitted greatly from the education I received from Professor Edgar (“Mike”) Pessemier. I remember my first impression of him was awe inspiring, he reminded me in fact of Professor Kingsfield in the then recently released movie The Paper Chase. In his doctoral seminar on research methods, I learned valuable techniques I had never heard of before, such as multidimensional scaling, factor and cluster analysis. But the career-launching experience for me came out of the term paper we were assigned to prepare for that seminar. As it turns out, Professor Pessemier had recently undergone major surgery for which blood transfusion was necessary. So, what goes through the mind of this eminent scholar as he is being prepared for surgery? He thinks about factors that motivate people to donate blood or vital organs to save other peoples’ lives. More than that, he makes organ and blood donation the research focus for his first post-surgery doctoral seminar, the one I was fortunate enough to attend. After the seminar, Professor Pessemier invited two doctoral students whose term papers had impressed him, Albert Bemmaor and myself. The three of us then conducted a large-scale survey on organ and blood donation and prepared a manuscript for submission to the Journal of Consumer Research.  Mike Pessemier’s leadership taught me how to conduct a research project from start to finish. The article appeared in the December 1977 issue; it was my very first publication. To this day I am most grateful for the research opportunity and guidance Mike Pessemier provided at a critical point in my education.”

Thomas (Tom) P. Hustad, a doctoral alumnus of Purdue in 1970s, and now Professor Emeritus of Marketing, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University recalls that Edgar A. (Mike) Pessemier was a major force in his life.  In offering a detailed description of Mike’s impact on his learning and thinking, and his professional life, Tom offers a summary of Mike’s broad, eclectic and sustained contributions to scholarship and practice. “Mike’s Marketing Management course in Krannert’s MSIA program led me to select marketing as my major area of study.  The theme of understanding the customer resonated with my technology background, and I began to envision ways to connect those disciplines.  After joining the PhD program, Mike sensed my interest in connecting research to practice and obtained a grant from the Marketing Science Institute to fund a review of lifestyle (psychographic) research in marketing in 1970. This allowed me to travel to New York and Chicago to interview a number of senior advertising executives and led to a publication, T. P. Hustad and E. A. Pessemier, "The Development and Application of Psychographics, Life Style and Associated Measures," as well as an earlier paper published by MSI.

The success of this project led to a funding from General Electric, Lever Brothers, General Motors, and Corn Products Company.  Stewart Debruicker and I designed and managed that project.  The data we obtained supported our dissertations and two others who were not involved in collecting the data. A second MSI grant in 1971 supported work by Mike and me to study issues related to the emerging interest in consumerism and resulted in a publication in JMR.  Mike also obtained Ford Foundation funding for continuation of my dissertation research in 1973.

Mike knew of my growing interest in innovation and expressed his confidence by telling me that he did not need to learn details of my progress in my specific dissertation research; however, he made it clear that I should never hesitate to meet with him when I needed his advice on anything.  He made contacts that led to several grants that supported my work and led to publications. He encouraged me to think long term about my interest in innovation but to concentrate near term on areas of research that would be publishable.

After graduation, my interest in innovation motivated me to spend four years creating The Journal of Product Innovation Management.  Mike was an early supporter and enthusiastically joined the editorial board to lend his support.”

William (Bill) L. Moore, a doctoral peer of Abel Jeuland and others at Purdue in 1970s, and now David Eccles Professor of Marketing (emeritus), David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah contrasts the PhD research seminars taught by Professors Bass and Pessemier. “Bass taught seminars in econometrics and multivariate statistics. He covered a relatively small number of models in great depth allowing us to understand the matrix algebra in back of the models. It provided a great foundation to continue learning for the rest of our careers. Mike covered a much greater number of techniques (multidimensional scaling, clustering, various tree methods, etc.) in a very eclectic fashion. It was more “here are a bunch of interesting ways to look at data” while providing few of the details underlying the models. Partly based on the background I learned from Professor Bass, I ended up learning and using virtually every model Mike covered in the next ten years of my career.”

What was Mike’s counsel to Bill and other scholars? “His only career advice was, ‘Make sure you spend time with your family and do not let your career consume your life.’”

Mike is remembered with much gratitude as a scholar who gave much of himself to the community – a gentleman, a generous soul, and an intellectual.  Bill Moore: “I greatly enjoyed and treasured my association with Mike for the rest of his career.” Tom Hustad: “He was always willing to provide advice.  I am truly grateful for his support in so many ways.” Mike Hanssens: “He was a scholar and a gentleman, and I remember feeling a great loss when I learned about his passing in 1999.” Don Lehman: “Overall, he was a dedicated scholar with great attention to detail.” Leigh McAlister: “he was a generous soul.”

Gurumurthy Kalyanaram (G.K.)
Dated: October 2021