Memories of emeritus dean Jules Zimmer

Thursday, May 12, 2022
Lois Capps and Jules Zimmer

Lois Capps and Jules Zimmer in 1999

The Gevirtz School was deeply saddened by the passing of Jules Zimmer, Dean of the School from 1993-2004. Dr. Zimmer passed on April 9, 2022 at the age of 91. Zimmer was a professor in UCSB’s Department of Education from 1970 until 2004. As dean, Zimmer shepherded the growth in reputation of the School, including the naming of the School after a generous gift from Ambassador Don L. and Mrs. Marilyn E. Gevirtz in 2000.

In 2020 an anonymous gift from a technology company headquartered in Santa Barbara, made in Zimmer’s honor, established the Jules Zimmer Dean’s Chair at the Gevirtz School. Jeffrey Milem, current dean of GGSE, is the inaugural holder of the administrative chair.

When the chair was established Dean Milem said, “The chair represents our shared values of academic excellence, friendship, generosity, vision and a commitment to the future—all values Jules Zimmer himself embodies.” Upon Zimmer’s passing Milem reflected, “Both the School and I hope to honor Jules Zimmer by sustaining a drive for trenchant research that informs powerful public policy in both education and applied psychology. And we hope to do it with the essential care and humanity that everyone who knew Jules revered him for.”

The School turned to some who knew Jules best for some words:

Lois Capps (M.A. ’90), retired U.S. Representative
These thoughts are based on my reaction to Carolyn’s [Cogan, Jules’s widow] letting Laura and me know of Jules’ hospice care and then subsequently of his death.  (Jules and my daughter Laura served together on the Community Environmental Council.) 

There really aren’t words to adequately describe the importance of the role that Jules Zimmer played in my life during significant times. My first memory of him is from decades ago when my daughter Laura and I were involved in the Starr King Parent Child Workshop and Jules used to come to some of our Monday night parent meetings led by Hanne Sonquist. He would have us sit on the floor with him cross legged in his stocking feet
and tell us about Jean Piaget.

Years later when I served as a School Nurse for the Santa Barbara School District I enrolled in the Early Childhood Education Master’s program at UCSB and Jules was my professor and advisor. He made such a difference in my education! Fast forward again to Jules’ retirement and when my grandson Oscar was playing basketball at the Y – there was Jules working out and taking good care of himself!

When Laura campaigned – there was Jules with Carolyn supporting her at a rally! And throughout the years what stands out the most in my memories of Jules is his warm and encouraging smile.

Peggy O'Toole Lamb (M.Ed.,’87), author, retired educator
I am saddened to hear of Jules passing, such a gentle soul. He was always caring and available when I was his student, and had a profound understanding of Piaget and how children learn; he joined the community together with the Gevirtz School to make a better education system by establishing the Dean’s Council. Jovial, kind, and loving, you will always be remembered, Jules.

Gordon Morrell (Ph.D., ’76), Executive Vice President Yardi Systems
I’ve had two mentors in my life. Jules Zimmer was one of them. We met in 1972 when Jules taught a five-day seminar at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. A year later, when I was on my way to UCSB, Jules gave me a place to stay and we’ve been friends ever since. We rode our bikes together from downtown Santa Barbara to the campus a few days a week, and for the next 49 years had frequent “meetings” over a cold beer, or two. That smile and humor. That positivity. That yellow shirt with the brown Farah pants (circa 1975). That inclusiveness. That modesty. That focus when he was listening to you. That curiosity about everything from people to Piaget to politics to plants. That person who taught so many who went on to teach so many more. That wonderful human being. Like so many others who knew and loved Jules, I miss him.

Robert K. Ream (Ph.D., ’01), Interim Associate Dean, Undergraduate Education Programs, School of Education, University of California, Riverside
It’s often difficult to bridge the gap between who we are and who we are meant to be…. Dean Zimmer and I often walked along Campus Point when I served as his first Director of Development starting in 1994. Not long after Don and Marilyn founded the Gevirtz Research Center with an initial $1 million gift, Jules reached for my forearm to emphasize a point that took me by surprise and changed my life’s course: “Bob Ream,” he said with his familiar, smiling eyes [And can’t you just hear him saying these words!] “You really ought to get yourself a life—go get a Ph.D.; be an academic.”  Following his wise counsel, I did just that. Looking back, I think Papa Jules, as my children lovingly call him, saw something in me that I hadn’t seen in myself. I am forever grateful, and hope there is suggestive power in the names we give our children. Our son’s name is Jules.