Dr. Rolf Erik Zimmerman, PhD.

October 29, 1941- January 26, 2007

by Asbury Park Press

DR. ROLF ERIK ZIMMERMANN, Ph.D, 65, of MIDDLETOWN, passed away Friday, Jan. 26, at Hackensack Medical Center after a courageous and lengthy battle with multiple myeloma. Erik was the son of the late Rolf and Elinor Zimmermann, and stepson of Marge Zimmermann, Palm Harbor, Fla. Erik married the former Gayle M. Stephens on June 19, 1971, and recently celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary. 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 “Serius,” 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. Erik continued to teach in his retirement, teaching astronomy at OCC and physics 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. Erik was a founding member of ASTRA, the Astronomical Society of the Toms River Area, serving as its president from 1977 to 2001. Erik also was a member of the Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society and held several positions on the executive committee in that organization, and was a member of the International Planetarium Society. 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 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.

Surviving are his wife, Gayle; his sons, Brad, Brendan, Stephen and Erik; a sister, Leni Patten of Mundelein, Ill.; eight grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

At the request of the family, funeral services will be private. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. In charge of arrangements is the John E Day Funeral Home, Red Bank.