Robert Zimmer

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For the German philosopher and essayist, see Robert Zimmer (philosopher).
Robert Jeffrey Zimmer
Robert Zimmer By Eric Guo.jpg
13th President of the University of Chicago
Assumed office
July 1, 2006
Preceded by Don Michael Randel
Personal details
Born (1947-11-05) November 5, 1947 (age 68)
Spouse(s) Terese Schwartzman (divorced)
Shadi Bartsch
Children Alex Zimmer
Benjamin Zimmer
David Zimmer
Residence Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Alma mater Brandeis University
Harvard University
Profession Mathematician
Website Office of the President

Robert Jeffrey Zimmer (born November 5, 1947) is an American mathematician and academic administrator. He is the 13th president of the University of Chicago[1] and serves as Chair of the Board for Argonne National Lab,[2] Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory,[3] and the Marine Biological Laboratory.[4] As a mathematician, Zimmer specializes in geometry, particularly ergodic theory, Lie groups, and differential geometry.

Education and work experience[edit]

Zimmer graduated from New York's Stuyvesant High School in 1964,[5] and attended Brandeis University as an undergraduate, earning his B.A., summa cum laude, in 1968.[6] He conducted his mathematics graduate study at Harvard University, receiving his master's degree in 1971 and his Ph.D. in 1975 under the supervision of George Mackey.[7] Zimmer taught at the United States Naval Academy from 1975-1977, and moved to the mathematics department of the University of Chicago in 1977. He was on the mathematics faculty and held several administrative positions at the University of Chicago, including Chairman of the Department of Mathematics, Deputy Provost, and Vice President for Research and Argonne National Laboratory before he moved to Brown University as provost in 2002.[8] He returned to the University of Chicago as president in 2006.

University of Chicago Presidency[edit]

As president, Zimmer pushed for major academic initiatives at Chicago,[9] including increased financial aid for students in the undergraduate College and the elimination of loans from financial aid packages for low income families;[10] increased funding for doctoral students, particularly in humanities and social sciences;[11] the University of Chicago’s first engineering program, the Institute for Molecular Engineering;[12] new programs and facilities in the arts;[13] and the establishment of the Becker-Friedman Institute for Research in Economics[14] and the Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society.[15] During Zimmer's presidency, the University of Chicago expanded its presence locally with the launch of the Urban Education Institute[16] and globally with the launch of the Center in Beijing[17] and the Center in Delhi.[18]

Under Zimmer's administration applications to the undergraduate College increased from under 10,000 in 2006[19] to over 30,000 in 2013.[20]

During Zimmer’s tenure the University of Chicago received three of the largest gifts in its history: a $100 million donation to fund undergraduate scholarships,[21] a $300 million donation to endow the University of Chicago Booth School of Business,[22] and a $100 million donation to establish The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts and The Pearson Global Forum at the Harris School of Public Policy Studies.[23]

An Associated Press report found Zimmer to be the highest-paid college president in the United States in 2011, with total compensation of $3.4 million in that year.[24]

Mathematical work[edit]

Zimmer’s work centers around group actions on manifolds and more general spaces, with applications to topology and geometry. Much of his work is in the area now known as the "Zimmer Program" which aims to understand the actions of semisimple Lie groups and their discrete subgroups on differentiable manifolds.[25]

Crucial to this program is “Zimmer’s cocycle superrigidity theorem”, a generalization of Grigory Margulis’s superrigidity theorem. Like Margulis’s work, which greatly influenced Zimmer, it uses ergodic theory as a central technique in the case of invariant measures.[26] It led to many results within the Zimmer Program, although many of the main conjectures remain open.[27] In addition to Margulis, Zimmer was greatly influenced by the work of Mikhail Gromov on rigid transformation groups and he extended and connected Gromov’s theory to the Zimmer Program.[28]

Zimmer collaborated with a number of with mathematicians to apply the ideas from the Zimmer Program to other areas of mathematics. His collaboration with Alexander Lubotzky applied some of these ideas to arithmetic results on fundamental groups of manifolds.[29] In collaboration with François Labourie and Shahar Mozes, cocycle superrigidity ideas were applied to the basic problem of the existence of compact locally homogeneous spaces of certain types.[30] His collaboration with Amos Nevo concerned actions with stationary measure and provided certain basic structure theorems for such actions of higher rank semisimple groups.[31] Zimmer’s earlier work provided a proof of a conjecture of Alain Connes on orbit equivalence of actions of semisimple groups, and introduced the basic notion of amenable group action.[32]

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Terese Schwartzman, director of strategic initiatives for the university’s Urban Education Institute, but they separated in September 2009 and later divorced.[33] They have three grown sons, David, Benjamin, and Alex Zimmer.[34] In October 2011, he married University of Chicago Classics professor Shadi Bartsch.[35]



  1. ^ Ali, Hassan (2006-03-11). "Board elects Brown provost as 13th U of C president". Chicago Maroon. Retrieved 2013-01-23. 
  2. ^ "Argonne National Laboratory Organization Chart". Argonne National Laboratory. 2013-01-09. Retrieved 2013-01-23. 
  3. ^ "Fermi Research Alliance Board of Directors". Fermi Research Alliance, LLC. 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-28. 
  4. ^ "MBL Officers and Trustees". Marine Biological Laboratory. 2014-04-12. Retrieved 2014-05-28. 
  5. ^ Yoe, Mary Ruth. "Back to the future - Mathematician Robert J. Zimmer will return to the quads this July as Chicago's next president. And it all adds up.". Retrieved 2007-10-31. 
  6. ^ "Robert J. Zimmer named ninth provost of Brown University". Brown University News Service. 2002-02-04. Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  7. ^ Lipkin, Michael Lipkin (2010-03-05). "The Zimmer Program". Chicago Maroon. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  8. ^ "Robert J. Zimmer named ninth provost of Brown University". Brown University News Service. 2002-02-04. Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  9. ^ Rachowin, Blake (2007-01-23). "Zimmer projects major reforms at faculty meeting". Chicago Maroon. Retrieved 2013-02-22. 
  10. ^ "Alum gives U. Chicago $100M for low-income scholarships". USA Today. 2007-05-31. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  11. ^ "President Zimmer announces additional $50 million in aid for graduate students in Social Sciences, Humanities" (Press release). 2007-02-07. Retrieved 2007-10-31. 
  12. ^ Coryne, Harunobu (2011-04-05). "Molecular Engineering Director named". Chicago Maroon. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  13. ^ Henning, Joel (2012-09-11). "Where Theory and Practice Make Perfect". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  14. ^ "Becker Friedman Institute established at University of Chicago". University of Chicago News Office. 2011-06-17. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  15. ^ Catlin, Jon (2012-10-09). "Sosc prof leads collegium to bring foreign scholars to campus". Chicago Maroon. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  16. ^ Haederle, Michael. "Chicago Charter Schools Aim to Lift Urban Education". 2011-08-23: Pacific Standard. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  17. ^ Mack, Kristen (2010-04-28). "U. of C. will open Beijing center". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  18. ^ "University of Chicago opens centre in Delhi". The Economic Times. 2014-03-30. Retrieved 2014-05-28. 
  19. ^ Rachowin, Blake (2007-02-20). "College sees record number of applications". Chicago Maroon. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  20. ^ Xiao, Stephanie (2013-01-26). "College applications continue upward trend". Chicago Maroon. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  21. ^ Cohen, Jodi S. (2007-05-31). "A $100 million mystery". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2015-02-04. 
  22. ^ Guth, Robert (2008-11-07). "Chicago Business School Gets Huge Gift". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  23. ^ Glanton, Dahleen (2015-09-30). "U. of C. gets $100 million donation to study global conflict". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2015-12-02. 
  24. ^ "Top 10 earning private college presidents in 2011". The Guardian. AP Foreign. December 15, 2013. Retrieved December 15, 2013. 
  25. ^ Farb (ed.), Benson; Fisher, David (2011). Geometry, Rigidity, and Group Actions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 72. ISBN 9780226237909. Retrieved 2013-11-14. 
  26. ^ Karl E. Petersen; Spatzier, R. J. (1995). Karl E. Petersen; Ibrahim Salama, eds. Ergodic theory and its connection with harmonic analysis : proceedings of the 1993 Alexandria conference. Cambridge [u.a.]: Cambridge Univ. Press. pp. 164, 183. ISBN 0521459990. 
  27. ^ Lipkin, Michael (2010-03-05). "The Zimmer Program". Chicago Maroon. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  28. ^ Farb (ed.), Benson; Fisher, David (2011). Geometry, Rigidity, and Group Actions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226237909. Retrieved 2013-11-14. 
  29. ^ Lubotzky, Alexander; Robert J. Zimmer. "Arithmetic structure of fundamental groups and actions of semisimple Lie groups" (PDF). Preprint. Retrieved 2013-01-25. 1997/98 
  30. ^ Labourie, Francois; Shahar Mozes; Robert J. Zimmer (1995). "On manifolds locally modelled on non-riemannian homogeneous spaces". Geometric And Functional Analysis. 5.6. pp. 955–65. Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  31. ^ Nevo, Amos; Robert Zimmer (November 1999). "Homogenous projective factors for actions of semi-simple Lie groups". Inventiones mathematicae 138.2. pp. 229–252. Retrieved 2013-11-14. 
  32. ^ Furman, Alex (2010-08-08). "A Survey of Measured Group Theory". arXiv:0901.0678free to read. 
  33. ^ "Chicago Maroon". Retrieved 2011-10-25. 
  34. ^ Yoe, Mary Ruth. "Back to the future — Mathematician Robert J. Zimmer will return to the quads this July as Chicago's next president. And it all adds up.". Retrieved 2007-10-31. 
  35. ^ "Chicago Maroon". Retrieved 2011-10-25. 
  36. ^ "Alphabetical Index of Active Members" (PDF). Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. 2011-11-11. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  37. ^ Sy, Mark (2011-04-27). "President of the University of Chicago Receives Honorary Doctorate from Tsinghua". Tsinghua News Center. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  38. ^ List of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, retrieved 2013-09-01.

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