Sarah Lawrence Mourns Loss of Faculty Emeritus Robert Zimmerman

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Faculty Emeritus Robert (Bob) Zimmerman, who had a long, impactful tenure at Sarah Lawrence College, teaching philosophy for nearly 40 years until his retirement in 2003, passed away on April 9. In his later years at the College, he held the prestigious Esther Raushenbush Chair, endowed by former trustee Gaylord Donnelley to support teaching in the humanities.

Bob received his BA from Brooklyn College and his PhD from New York University. He came to Sarah Lawrence from Rutgers University in 1968, during Esther Raushenbush’s presidency. Bob said of President Raushenbush, “I would’ve worked for her under any circumstances.” He often told the story of describing his vision of a theoretical “ideal college” during a lecture while still at Rutgers; after the lecture, an attendee came up to tell him that such a place did actually exist: Sarah Lawrence College.

Former students describe Bob as brilliant, gentle, and generous, someone who listened carefully and took them seriously. Former colleagues remember him as a revered figure on campus. Colleague Fred Smoler (literature) writes, “He could explain the most difficult ideas in the world to anyone… At the end of one famously demanding Hegel course, his students unrolled a banner stating, ‘Mr. Zimmerman's Students have Attained Absolute Spirit!’”  

This admiration and respect was wholly reciprocated. Bob’s daughter, Rachel Zimmerman ’87, writes of her father, “He loved his students and took great pleasure in their intellectual accomplishments, thinking of them as extended members of the family.”

Bob’s scholarly work mainly focused on 19th century philosophy. He wrote widely on Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche, with his work culminating in the book The Kantianism of Hegel and Nietzsche: Renovation in 19th Century German Philosophy(Edwin Mellen Press, 2005). His daughter Rachel again reminisces, “He taught me to ask questions, make connections, and approach complexity with curiosity. I will love him, always, and miss him greatly.” 

In addition to Rachel, Bob is mourned by his wife Betsy Fajans and his sons Nicholas and Paul.

About Sarah Lawrence College

Founded in 1926, Sarah Lawrence is a prestigious, coeducational liberal arts college that consistently ranks among the leading liberal arts colleges in the country. Sarah Lawrence is known for its pioneering approach to education, rich history of impassioned intellectual and civic engagement, and vibrant, successful alumni. In close proximity to the unparalleled offerings of New York City, the historic campus is home to an intellectually curious and diverse community.