Robert J. Zimmer served as President of the University of Chicago from July 1, 2006 to August 31, 2021 before transitioning into the role of Chancellor. As Chancellor, Zimmer focuses on the continuation and evolution of strategic initiatives of the University; re-enforcing the enduring values of the University and its distinctive approach to research, education, and impact; continuing key relationships of the University that span many aspects of University life and work and advancing high-level fundraising. As Chancellor, Zimmer also serves as a Trustee of the University of Chicago, and works in partnership with President Paul Alivisatos and the Board of Trustees on the vital challenge of setting an ambitious path for the University of Chicago.
Prior to his appointment as President, Zimmer was a University of Chicago faculty member and administrator for more than two decades, specializing in the mathematical fields of geometry, particularly ergodic theory, Lie groups, and differential geometry. As a University of Chicago administrator, Zimmer served as Chairman of the Mathematics Department, Deputy Provost, and Vice President for Research and for Argonne National Laboratory. He also served as the Provost of Brown University from 2002-2006, returning to the University of Chicago in 2006 as President.
Zimmer is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was a member of the National Science Board, the governing body of the National Science Foundation, from 2011 to 2016 and also served on the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science from 2008 to 2010.
Zimmer was named the Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Mathematics and the College in July 2021. He is the author of four books, Ergodic Theory and Semisimple Groups (1984), Essential Results of Functional Analysis (1990), Ergodic Theory, Groups, and Geometry (2008), and Group Actions in Ergodic Theory, Geometry, and Topology: Selected Papers (2019); and more than 80 mathematical research articles. He served on the Board of Mathematical Sciences of the National Research Council from 1992 to 1995 and was on the executive committee from 1993 to 1995. Zimmer held the title of Max Mason Distinguished Service Professor of Mathematics at Chicago before leaving for Brown, where he was the Ford Foundation Professor of Mathematics in addition to being Provost.
He earned his A.B., summa cum laude, from Brandeis University in 1968 and his A.M. and Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard University in 1971 and 1975 and joined the Chicago faculty as an L.E. Dickson Instructor of Mathematics in 1977. He was also on the faculty of the U.S. Naval Academy from 1975 to 1977 and has held visiting positions at Harvard University and at institutions in Israel, France, Australia, Switzerland, and Italy.
Zimmer has honorary degrees from Tsinghua University, Colby College, and Brandeis University. In 2017 he was given the Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contributions to Liberal Arts Education by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). He is a frequent commentator on free expression and academic freedom.