ScienceDr. R. Erik Zimmermann - A Memorial

Science Homepage | Jobs | Mission | Faculty | Physics | Chemistry | Biological Science | Science Teacher | Pre-Med at OCC | Hate science? | Astronomy | Zimmermann Memorial


Dr. R. Erik Zimmerman Memorial

Dr. R. Erik Zimmermann was the director of the Robert J. Novins Planetarium at OCC since its founding in 1974 until his retirement in 2001.

Memorial Service

The memorial service was held on Saturday May 19, 2007 at 3:00 p.m. at the Robert J. Novins Planetarium at Ocean County College. Approximately 85 friends, family and colleagues attended to remember this wonderful man and share how he touched their lives.

Order of Service


Dr. Zimmermann's Life Touched Many

One of Ocean County College's finest employees, Dr. R. Erik Zimmermann passed away on Friday, Jan. 26, 2007 at Hackensack Medical Center after a courageous and lengthy battle with multiple myeloma. Erik married the former Gayle M. Stephens on June 19, 1971, and recently celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary.

Gayle and Erik in Florida

Gayle and Erik Zimmermann

Erik was born Oct. 29, 1941, in Newark and raised in River Forest, Ill., where he developed a life-long interest in astronomy. In junior high, Erik built a small planetarium to give star presentations at home, and built his first telescope while in high school. He also founded an astronomy club in high school called "Sirius," after the star of the same name. Erik was a National Merit Scholar and Illinois State Latin champion in high school.

He attended Pomona College, Claremont, Calif., and earned his degree in astronomy. He received his Ph.D. from UCLA in astrophysics, becoming the first to do so at UCLA "With Honors." While still an undergraduate, he was a lecturer at the historic Adler Planetarium in Chicago during summer vacations. After receiving his doctorate, Erik was a professor at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., Kean College, Union, and Ocean County College, Toms River.

The young Dr. ZimmermannErik continued to teach in his retirement, teaching astronomy and physics at OCC and at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft. Erik was the director of the Robert J. Novins Planetarium at OCC since its founding in 1974 until his retirement in 2001. While the director of the planetarium, Erik wrote most of the scripts for the planetarium shows, many of which were later used by prestigious planetariums throughout the United States. He developed astronomy programs at the Novins Planetarium for schoolchildren of the Shore area for over 30 years. Erik was a founding member of ASTRA, the Astronomical Society of the Toms River Area, serving as its president from 1977 to 2001.

L to R, Dr. Jon Larson, Dr. Erik Zimmermann and Carl V. Thulin, Jr.

L to R, Dr. Jon Larson, OCC President, Dr. R. Erik Zimmermann and
Carl V. Thulin, Jr. OCC Chairman of the Board. Erik receiving MAPS
Distinguished Service Award

Erik was passionate about bringing astronomy and science in general to the public forum, participating in ASTRA's annual Astronomy Day at the Ocean County Mall in Toms River as well as developing astronomy programs at the Novins Planetarium for schoolchildren of the Shore area for over 30 years. Erik is one of those rare individuals who has truly touched the lives of those with whom he's worked and associated. Erik's dedication to ASTRA encompassed every aspect of creating an organization not just to promote Astronomy but also to create pride in membership. He welcomed new members to ASTRA with open arms. He never spoke down to any of us even though his knowledge surpassed all of us. He made us feel like his equal. He wanted us all to excel at this hobby. Whether it was pointing out a satellite at a star party, discussing recent developments in the field, helping a new member with a small/new telescope or just shooting the breeze, Erik wanted us to enjoy the Astronomy hobby to the max - like it was his personal responsibility. Anything he could do to make our enjoyment of the night sky better was important to him. He was a great storyteller, sharing with us many a tale both personal and scientific.

Ocean County College's Star ProjectorErik also was a member of the Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society (MAPS) and held several positions on the executive committee in that organization, and was a member of the International Planetarium Society. On May 19, 2006, Erik received the MAPS Distinguished Service Award. Erik also was the president of the Lincroft Soccer Club, as well as a member of the board of directors of Lincroft Little League for several years. While president of Lincroft Soccer, he was instrumental in bringing the Challenger Sports program to the club, which provided a way for disabled children to participate in soccer.

Erik was a loving husband, father and brother, a master storyteller, and devoted to the education of astronomy his entire life.

Photo of the Horsehead and Flame Nebula. Courtesy NASA

We wish him "not farewell, but fare forward, voyager"!