Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Every year around this time, I think about my good friend Steve Zimmer.  Steve was a mountain of a man, a gentle giant with a compassionate heart larger than his formidable body.  My friendship with Steve began in graduate school in the early 70's, as we both toiled in the laboratories of the pathology department at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center on east Ninth Avenue.  Steve worked with Ray Erikson and I worked with John Lehman.  Steve was an excellent scientist and an even more accomplished talker!  He seemed to have a story or an informed opinion about everything.  We parted ways after graduation and headed to our respective post-docs in Saint Louis and in Los Alamos; however, over the years we kept in touch, and we visited Steve and Connie in both Saint Louis and in Lexington and they visited us in Los Alamos.  Family, friends and colleagues lost a very good fellow when Steve passed away in 2006.  The following is a tribute to Steve, a memorial resolution that was entered into the University of Kentucky Senate:

Memorial Resolution for Associate Professor of Medicine Steve Zimmer (presented by Ernie Yanarella, past Senate Council Chair)
Faculty Trustee Yanarella read a memorial resolution in honor of Associate Professor of Medicine Steve Zimmer.
     Memorial Resolution
Presented to the University of Kentucky Senate
October 9, 2006

Stephen G. Zimmer, Ph.D.
Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics
UK College of Medicine

Stephen G. Zimmer, Ph.D., associate professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics and Cancer Center member, died Wednesday, June 14, 2006.  He is survived by his spouse, Constance James Zimmer, and two children, Stephen G. Zimmer, Jr., and Courtney Anne Zimmer.

On behalf of the alumni, students, staff, faculty, and friends of the College of Medicine and the wider University community, I offer the following memorial to Stephen Zimmer:
Stephen was born in Trenton, New Jersey, on October 26, 1942.  Those who knew him recognized that he was a gentle giant whose love of family, profession, and religious community were manifested in equal measures of selfless devotion and fond memories.

Stephen's longtime research and teaching skills in microbiology and immunology were shaped in his early educational pursuits, specifically, at The Rutgers University, where he earned his bachelors degree in natural sciences in 1964 and his master of science degree in radiation sciences in 1966, as well as his doctoral degree in experimental pathology at the University of Colorado in 1973. After serving as a research fellow at the Washington University School of Medicine in 1974 and then as a National Institutes of Health research fellow there for two more years, he came to the University of Kentucky in the summer of 1976 to begin his duties as an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology.

In addition to his research fellowships, he generated a list of impressive professional activities and other honors from various research programs and associations, including service on the editorial board of Anticancer Research and, most recently, on the board of trustees of the Wood-Hudson Cancer Research Laboratory beginning in 2005.  He was also a member of the American Association of Cancer Research and the Metastasis Society.  Described by his chair, Alan Kaplan, as a consummate free thinker, Stephen Zimmer was a significant contributor to the study of mechanisms of oncogenesis and in the last few years had the satisfaction of seeing two of the putative oncogenesis blocking agents elaborated through his laboratory moved into clinical trials.

His extensive c.v. includes nearly a hundred publications in research journals appropriate to his field and external funding from a wide array of government institutes and pharmaceutical companies for cancer research and training grants.  It also lists an impressive number of students whom he mentored as postdoctoral fellows, for whom he served as co-director, and who conducted research under his direction.  His students, both past and present, remember his dedication to the work of finding means to understand, treat, and cure a scourge of our industrial society and perhaps human condition, and his wry wit and humor.  Besides his own contributions, his students’ continuing work and subsequent success inspired in part by his example and mentorship will be the lasting legacy of Stephen Zimmer, teacher and researcher.

If Stephen was an esteemed colleague of high principle, unswerving dedication, and scientific integrity, he was also and not least of all a beloved husband, parent, and parishioner who somehow found a balance among the extraordinary demands of his personal, family, professional, and spiritual lives.  Those attending Stephen’s funeral on June 17, 2006, heard his priest advocate and speaker for the dead intone some of the recurring themes in his life among the standing room only audience of family and friends, students and colleagues--his profound love for family, his dedication to cancer research, his devotion to the teaching vocation, and his pursuit of peace and justice informed by his Catholic faith and spiritual practice.  Even in his gentle and cordial manner towards those whom he touched and often inspired, he was a towering figure who deserved to be recognized for his notable accomplishments and unflagging dedication to this University and its highest ideals and values.  

In his last years, he pursued with passion and conviction an academic accolade that he believed he justly deserved and had worked many long years to achieve.   Some believed that the achievements and stature of this man of science and liberal learning remained insufficiently heralded.   If that honor was not conferred on him in  life, it did not in any way diminish his stature and impact among those who knew him well and loved him for his exemplary behavior, his commitment to an ideal, and his life-long striving for an elusive humanitarian goal that eludes medical science still today.            

Dr. Stephen G. Zimmer was an esteemed colleague who will be missed greatly. I ask that this resolution be made a part of the minutes of the University Senate and that a copy be sent to Dr. Zimmer’s family.

A moment of silence was held in Zimmer’s honor.

Yanarella moved the resolution be made part of the minutes of the University Senate and that a copy be sent to Dr. Zimmer’s family. Jones seconded. The motion passed unanimously in a show of hands.

1 comment:

DES said...

Hard to believe that both Steve and Connie are no longer with us.