President Rev. Dr. Eric Albert Zimmer
Rev. Dr. Eric Albert Zimmer began his tenure as President of the University of Saint Francis on July 1, 2020. The founding Congregation, the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, working closely with the USF Board of Trustees, appointed him to succeed Sister M. Elise Kriss, OSF, who retired after 27 years as president on June 30, 2020.
Fr. Zimmer directed USF through many challenges in his first year, leading the university’s successful path during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under Fr. Zimmer’s leadership, USF began the Fall 2020 semester with protocols in place to reduce the possibility of spreading the virus while maintaining a first-class educational experience for students. USF completed the 2020-21 academic year with minimal cases of COVID-19 and no interruptions in the academic schedule.
Fr. Zimmer implemented several steps toward the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration’s directive to heighten the Catholic stature of the university. USF hired its first full-time residential priest chaplain in 10 years, initiated a Franciscan leadership program, and established the Catholic Foundation Scholarship Fund that will provide scholarships to well-recommended Catholic high school students who seek a Catholic university education.
In addition to his ongoing direction of USF’s implementation of its Strategic Plan in academic programming and other ventures, Fr. Zimmer oversees continued physical growth of the university. USF Crown Point began construction of an expanded facility in the fall of 2020, with goals to double its academic space and enrollment.
Fr. Zimmer came to USF after serving as associate teaching professor in the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame as well as pastor of Saint Patrick’s Church in Walkerton, Indiana. He directed the Mendoza College of Business interchange with the United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education. He taught negotiation and business communication, and his research emphasis included the adoption of innovation in non-profit organizations and the fundraising practices of non-profits. He previously worked in higher education at Creighton University and Georgetown University.
Fr. Zimmer compiled an impressive background of experience and leadership before coming to USF. His body of work includes:
- Attaché for the Holy See Permanent Mission to the United Nations
- Founder and Director of Leadership Development at the Creighton University School of Medicine
- Official of the Secretariat for the Congregation for Catholic Education, Universities Section, the Holy See
- Trustee, National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing.
- Trustee, Rudolph P. and Florence Nadbath Charitable Trust
- Trustee, Loyola University New Orleans
- Captain, United States Air Force Reserve
- CEO, Jesuits.net
- State Chaplain, Knights of Columbus, Washington, D.C.
- Chair, Media Advisory Board, Georgetown University
- Chair, Pedro Arrupe Scholarship for Peace, Georgetown University
- Chair, Speaker Series, CCT Program, Georgetown University
- Regent, Saint Ignatius High School Board of Regents, Cleveland, Ohio
Fr. Zimmer established a track record of success in fundraising, finance, and investments. He increased Saint Patrick’s Parish revenue by 50% in the first 12 months and developed six- and seven-figure capacity prospects for Creighton University. He also assisted in the design of the request for a high eight-figure gift at Notre Dame. He developed the fundraising arm of the National Office for Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing.
He is also an innovator and entrepreneur who created Jesuits.net, an international online networking and communication tool for Jesuits. He directed a multilevel national research team for the Annenberg Public Policy Institute’s multiyear study on inhibiting effects of anti-drug video messages. As Official of the Secretariat, Fr. Zimmer directed Vatican oversight of 1,013 Anglophone Catholic universities, ecclesiastical faculties of theology, philosophy and canon law, and affiliated seminaries – 54% of Catholic worldwide institutions, including 216 in the United States.
Fr. Zimmer holds a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, an MBA from the University of Chicago, an 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.
Among his many experiences, Fr. Zimmer spent time focusing on 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. He speaks five languages. An avid cyclist and professionally trained bicycle mechanic, Fr. Zimmer biked across the United States in 2003 for Project Rachel.