Robert J. Zimmer '68
Doctor of Humane Letters
Appointed in 2006 as the 13th president of the University of Chicago, Robert J. Zimmer is a pioneering mathematician, a strong advocate for access and affordability in higher education, and an outspoken defender of the importance of free expression and open discourse on college campuses. The Chicago Principles, developed in 2014 by the Committee on Freedom of Expression, a faculty committee commissioned by Zimmer, have become a widely adopted national model for promoting “free, robust, and uninhibited debate and deliberation” in the academy and beyond. In recognition of his work in support of free expression, he was given the Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contributions to Liberal Arts Education by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) in 2017.
The author of four books and more than 80 academic papers in differential geometry, ergodic theory, and other mathematical topics, Zimmer was a distinguished professor and deputy provost at the University of Chicago before joining Brown University from 2002-06 as the Ford Foundation Professor of Mathematics and provost.
He chairs the boards of Argonne National Laboratory, the Fermi Research Alliance, LLC (which manages Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory), and the Marine Biological Laboratory. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
A 2013 winner of Brandeis’ Alumni Achievement Award, Zimmer served on the National Science Foundation’s governing board from 2011-16 and on the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science from 2008-10.
Zimmer earned a master’s and PhD from Harvard University and has held teaching positions there, as well as at the U.S. Naval Academy and institutions in Australia, France, Israel, Italy, and Switzerland. He also has honorary degrees from Tsinghua University and Colby College.
He will become chancellor of the University of Chicago in September.