Robert J. Zimmer
It is with sadness that we share the passing of Robert J. Zimmer, chancellor emeritus and former president of the University of Chicago, who died May 23, 2023, at age 75. Zimmer, who served as the University’s 13th president from 2006 to 2021, made historic contributions to enhance the University of Chicago’s scholarly eminence, transformative education, and positive impact in the world during his 15 years as president, including his fundamental role in the 2013 affiliation of the University of Chicago and the Marine Biological Laboratory.
Zimmer was appointed to the MBL Board of Trustees in 2013 and was elected chairman in 2014, a position he held until 2022. His support and deep appreciation of MBL’s unique distinction in the biological sciences was unwavering. “The MBL has an extraordinarily valuable role as a source of innovation and creative collaboration in modern biology,” he remarked at the time of the UChicago-MBL affiliation.
Zimmer’s investment in the MBL was formed by a partnership that was seeded a decade earlier. In 2003, while serving as provost at Brown University, Zimmer recognized the MBL’s long-standing commitment to education and world-class science and architected, with then MBL director and CEO William T. Speck, a formal affiliation between the two institutions. The partnership enabled the establishment of the Brown-MBL Graduate Program in Biological and Environmental Sciences in addition to faculty exchanges and research collaborations.
“Bob was an enthusiastic and supportive partner of the MBL,” said Speck. “Whether it was developing the joint graduate program with Brown or spearheading the affiliation with the University of Chicago ten years later, with Bob you knew going into it that he was going to make it happen. There was never any question.”
“Bob Zimmer’s commitment to the MBL was enduring and we are indebted to his support over the many years, both while provost at Brown and president at the University of Chicago,” said Nipam Patel, director of the MBL. “The entire MBL community is saddened by his passing.”
Zimmer is survived by his wife, Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer, a faculty member at the University of Chicago; and by three sons Alex, Benjamin, and David, from his previous marriage to Terese Schwartzman.
The MBL flag will be lowered in his memory.
Visit the UChicago News website to read more about Zimmer’s life and legacy.