Leading the Way

Rev. Dr. Eric Albert Zimmer begins his first year as the new president of the University of Saint Francis.
Aug 7, 2020
Reggie Hayes
Tim Brumbeloe
Leading the Way

Rev. Dr. Eric Albert Zimmer begins his tenure as president of the University of Saint Francis with great optimism for making a highly successful institution even better.

Fr. Zimmer’s extensive experience in leadership and fundraising – and a Catholic service background including work for the Vatican – makes him the ideal person to succeed the retired Sister M. Elise Kriss, OSF. Sister Elise retired June 30 after 27 years as USF president.

“Saint Francis is wonderfully placed to continue to develop and grow and perhaps do so on a much greater level than anyone would have thought a couple of decades ago,” Fr. Zimmer says. “When Sister Elise came on, it was a much smaller school. She’s developed it tremendously, building up the campus and the new buildings and the new chapel and all these wonderful things. We want to continue to build on that.”

Fr. Zimmer came to USF after serving as an associate business professor at the University of Notre Dame and pastor of Saint Patrick’s Church in Walkerton, Indiana. Those were the latest stops in a career that has taken him around the world, from humble beginnings in Detroit to serving the Vatican as Official of the Secretariat for the Congregation for Catholic Education, Universities Section, Holy See. During his time with the Vatican, he directed oversight of 1,013 Anglophone Catholic universities, with hands-on oversight of 38 post-secondary Catholic institutions.

Fr. Zimmer has worked in higher education at Georgetown and Creighton universities. At Creighton, he was Director of Leadership Development and set up a workshop program in leadership and management for physicians that continues today. He later served as an attaché for the Holy See Permanent Mission to the United Nations.

The Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration appointed Fr. Zimmer as the new president in conjunction with the USF Board of Trustees, and he began his work July 1.

“We want to continue to build upon what’s important and desirable at the University of Saint Francis,” Fr. Zimmer says. “I like the fact the opportunity is there for growth. I like the fact a lot of students are first generation. I’m a first-generation college student. My parents are immigrants.”

Fr. Zimmer’s parents moved from Windsor, Canada, to Detroit and Zimmer grew up as the third of five children. His father was a designer for the Ford Motor Company. Zimmer grew up Catholic and was active in the Boy Scouts, advancing to Eagle Scout. He went on to run his own tutoring program as a high school student.

Fr. Zimmer holds a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, an MBA from the University of Chicago, a M.Div. and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, an M.A. from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. from Loyola University of New Orleans. Fr. Zimmer joined the Society of Jesus and led many ministry projects in several locales. He also created Jesuits.net, an international online communication tool. He made the transition to the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend while at Notre Dame.

He has worked in international pastoral ministry and service through long-term service in international communities, including Nepal, India, Chile, France and Italy, and in pastoral care with Omaha’s Hispanic community and New York City’s inner city and Ground Zero communities. Fr. Zimmer speaks five languages and is also an avid cyclist and professionally trained bicycle mechanic who biked across the United States in 2003 for Project Rachel.

Fr. Zimmer brings a wealth of expertise to his new role as the first male president in USF history.

“Being president is a 24/7 job and there’s going to be constant activity,” Zimmer says. “The fundraising is preeminent. Also, managing a team, fulfilling the strategic initiatives of the board, working with the board and working with the community. Sister Elise has been very gracious in connecting me with benefactors, faculty, staff and students. I’m excited. There is a ton of stuff to do.” 

University of Saint Francis

Address: 2701 Spring St. Fort Wayne, Indiana 46808

Phone: (260) 399-7700

Website: sf.edu

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