Remembering Dr. Robert P. Zimmerer

Dr. Robert P. Zimmerer

Dr. Robert Zimmerer embodied the very best in Juniata faculty. Read his bio, and you wonder how he accomplished even one-half of what is there. For 32 years, he taught large numbers of students in many different classes. He was named a Charles A. Dana-supported professor and received the Beachley Award for Distinguished Teaching. He was an active scholar and put in the work to get grants (the Grass Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the NIH, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) that supported his work, the work of his students, and Juniata. Dr. Zimmerer served the Huntingdon community, including consulting roles with the Mine Safety Research Corporation, Owens Corning Fiberglas Corporation, and J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital. For many students he is best remembered as the Chair of the Health Professions Committee (1968–1993), which helped pre-health majors and POEs (Programs of Emphasis) get into professional schools. All of this represents the pillars of faculty work; teaching, research, advising, and service. He did all four remarkably well.

Bob was a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He actively followed and supported his kids. His son, Bill, was a high school basketball player for the Huntingdon Bearcats. In a district game at Hollidaysburg High School, Bob (and a few others) thought the refs were not doing a particularly good job. At the end of the game, I swear I saw him chasing one of the refs across the floor with his umbrella. He was passionate about the things he loved — his teaching, his service, getting students into medical school, and a high school basketball game one of his kids was in. Bob’s wife, Mary, was the love of his life. They carried their passion for Juniata into their retirement years by going on the road to help recruit students.

When I joined the Juniata faculty in 1970, it is fair to say that there was considerable tension in the faculty. It was the time of the curricular reform known as the “Task Force.” (You only remember this time if you are very old.) Despite the arguments about reforming the curriculum, I remember that Bob Zimmerer and most of the other senior faculty did their best to make new faculty feel welcome. All of us “newbies” appreciated that sentiment. We saw that it was possible for faculty to disagree without being disagreeable.

Thanks, Bob.

—By James Lakso, Provost Emeritus

Robert P. Zimmerer

Oct. 14, 2022 —Bob earned his bachelor’s degree in botany at the University of Wisconsin in 1954 and attained his master’s degree in plant physiology and microbiology from Cornell University in 1961. He received his doctorate in plant physiology and microbiology from Penn State University. Robert was a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Huntingdon, where he served on the Vestry for many years and as Senior Warden for three years. He served in the U.S. Army from 1951–1953. He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary. Bob is survived by daughters, Kay, Carolyn, and son William, and wife, Julie; eight grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.