In Memoriam | Jules Zimmer: 1930–2022

Jules M. Zimmer passed away in his home on Saturday, April 9, 2022, one month shy of his 92nd year. The son of Ukrainian immigrants, he was born in Spring Valley, New York, on May 14, 1930. Before moving to Santa Barbara, Jules was for a time the proud owner of a restaurant in Spring Valley and later worked as an education professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Dean and professor emeritus at the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at UC Santa Barbara, Dr. Zimmer was a highly respected education scholar and much-beloved member of the university community and beyond. He joined the School of Education faculty with a specialty in Counseling Psychology in 1970 and served as a member of the UCSB faculty for the next 34 years.

Inspired by an interest in early childhood development, he studied for a full year with famed psychologist Jean Piaget in Switzerland and returned to become program leader for Early Childhood Education at UCSB. He was appointed acting dean in 1993, followed by an influential tenure as dean from 1994-2004. In 2020, his legacy was cemented when an anonymous gift made in Jules’s honor established the Jules Zimmer Dean’s Chair at Gevirtz School. 

Credit: Courtesy

In addition to his many academic and administrative accolades, Jules is recognized as a role model, mentor, and friend to many of the School of Education’s influential alumni. Among them is Lois Capps, who met Jules at the Starr King Parent-Child Workshop when her daughter Laura was a preschooler. “We had a Monday night meeting as part of the City College program, and people would come to talk to us,” Capps said. “Jules was captivating. He had us sit in a circle on the floor with him, stocking-footed with our shoes off. It was not really a lecture — it was more a conversation.” Capps recalled that when she became a school nurse, she didn’t feel very confident: “I had never studied or learned very much about childhood education, and here I was working with young children. Jules opened the door for me to get my master’s in early childhood education. He was a masterful teacher.”

Jules’s achievements in education were exemplary, but he was also actively involved in environmental groups and political campaigns. Well-read and with strong convictions, Jules was unwavering in his support of these organizations and the goals to which they strived.

To say that Jules was much-loved would be an understatement of the greatest proportions. To meet this humble and gracious man was to love him, pure and simple. He emanated goodness and had the uncanny ability to bring people together with a sense of community. He was compassionate and caring. When you spoke, he listened, really listened, with genuine interest and concern, and he held his friends dear. With a perpetual smile and an easy laugh, his spirit was infectious and joyful, and in his presence everything somehow just seemed a little brighter and a little lighter.

Jules often said that, above all else, the most important quality one could have is kindness, and kind he was. We will never forget his contagious smile or the magical twinkle in his eyes, the window to his heart. He had a wonderful sense of humor and loved a good laugh. Sometimes when trying to relay something he thought was funny, he would be laughing so hard before he got to the end of his story that you too would laugh just because he was laughing, and being his wonderful goofy self. It was not unusual for Jules to laugh to the point of tears.

With a profound love of nature, Jules was perhaps most at home in his garden and could often be found patrolling the grounds in bathrobe and slippers in the early morning hours. With the seemingly endless California drought, beds of zinnias and marigolds were replaced with California natives and succulents. Jules enjoyed the evolution of his garden and loved sitting with family and friends, savoring the view and discussing the events of the day.

As all good things are better shared, Jules created a communal vegetable garden and greenhouse where neighbors could cultivate and harvest their produce. He built a chicken coop, shared fresh eggs with friends and neighbors, and even kept honeybees. Jules also loved to cook. His cottage cheese pancakes are famous, and jams and jellies and zucchini bread were made with love and shared.

Jules was married to Laurie Peare Zimmer for 50 years, until her death in 2006, and in 2016 married Carolyn Noble Cogan. He is survived by Carolyn and many family members, including his sister, Geri Grubel; numerous nieces and nephews; stepchildren; step-grandchildren; and step-great-grandchildren.

Everyone who knew Jules felt that sense of magic and love that he exuded, and that is how we will remember him — a kind and loving man, a man so impactful that friends have blessed their children with his name. Jules the scholar, the educator, the gardener, the chef, but most of all, Jules the friend.

A memorial service will be held Friday, May 13, 2 p.m., at the Unitarian Society. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Environmental Defense Center, Community Environmental Council, and Los Padres ForestWatch.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.