It is with great sadness that IHES and Friends of IHES have learnt of the passing of former invited professor and member of the Friends of IHES Board of Directors Robert J. Zimmer, Chancellor Emeritus and 13th President of the University of Chicago.
Zimmer received his master’s degree and his Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard University. He taught and carried out his research at several universities including the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Chicago. As a mathematician, he specialized in Lie groups, ergodic theory and differential geometry.
It is in Chicago that he started holding several administrative positions within the University. He served as the 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. He returned to the University of Chicago as President in 2006, thus becoming the 13th President, a role that he held until September 2021, when he stepped down to become Chancellor. He resigned from this role in July 2022, leaving an unprecedented legacy.
Robert J. Zimmer developed a strong relationship with IHES over the years. He was invited to the Institute for the first time by Dennis Sullivan and spent the academic year 1979-80 at IHES, benefiting from a Sloan Fellowship from the University of Chicago.
He was later invited again at IHES by Misha Gromov and Alain Connes, and came in 1992 with his family.
It is thanks to Zimmer, that the 50th anniversary of IHES was celebrated in 2008 also at the University of Chicago, where he hosted a special event in the presence of Bernard Saint-Donat, then Chairman of Friends of IHES, and Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, then Director of IHES.
Robert J. Zimmer joined the Friends of IHES Board of Directors in November 2021 and until the end of 2022.
He reminisced about his time at the Institute with fondness and will be remembered with deep affection and respect for all of his accomplishments both as a mathematician and as a visionary leader.