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The Communicator


Jane Zimmerman ('03 Honorary)

Honorary Alumna, Dedicated Volunteer

Jane Zimmerman headshot

Penn State lost a dedicated volunteer and tireless advocate for students on March 2, 2023. Jane W. Zimmerman, an Honorary Alumna whose gifts spanned dozens of University initiatives, leaves behind both a legacy of personal generosity and a decades-long record of inspiring philanthropic support.

Zimmerman and her late husband, Robert K. Zimmerman, created permanent endowments that provide ongoing support to WPSU through the production and broadcast of digital content and that fund internships with Penn State Public Broadcasting. Together, the gifts were designed to accelerate the transition to new modes of information delivery and create pathways for undergraduates to gain a foothold in the broadcast industry.

“Jane was a truly dedicated volunteer with a prescient vision for the kinds of mentoring and resources undergraduates would need to break into the rapidly evolving world of broadcasting,” said Marie Hardin, dean of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. “Her steady leadership and passion touched the lives of countless students. As we grieve her passing, we are grateful that the endowments she established will propel our graduates to success for generations.”

In addition to establishing named endowments, Zimmerman gave to a wide variety of areas throughout the University, including Intercollegiate Athletics, the Palmer Museum of Art, Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, Pennsylvania 4-H, the Center for the Performing Arts, Blue Band, THON and numerous Renaissance Fund scholarships.

“My mom bled blue and white,” said Zimmerman’s daughter, Laura Sogor. “She had boundless energy for making phone calls, convening meetings, showing up to functions — anything to drum up support for Penn State’s priorities. And because she and my father owned several radio stations in the region, she had a particular enthusiasm for helping students get their start in broadcasting. Her heart was so big, and she made a huge difference to so many Penn Staters.”

As the impact of her service grew, Zimmerman garnered numerous awards. In 2003, she was named an Honorary Alumna of Penn State in recognition of her significant contributions to the University’s welfare, reputation and prestige. Two years later, she earned the Charles Lupton Volunteer Award from Development and Alumni Relations for her outstanding volunteer service, followed in 2008 by her selection as the Penn State Fundraising Volunteer of the Year. Finally, for her efforts to deepen the University’s impact on the world, she received the Fischer Award of Distinction in 2010.

Zimmerman was born in North Charleroi, Pennsylvania, in 1939, the daughter of a steel mill foreman, and grew up several miles east across the Monongahela River in Monessen, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, then rose through the ranks to become director of the YWCA in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where she met Bob, her future husband of 45 years until his death in 2007. The couple eventually relocated with their two children, Andrew and Laura, to State College.

She soon fell in love with Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics — especially men’s basketball and football — and was selected to serve as parade chairperson for the 1982 and 1986 national championship football teams.

In addition to her leadership at Penn State, Zimmerman served her broader community. She held the post of treasurer for the State College YMCA Million Dollar campaign, sat on the YMCA Advisory Committee, and served on the board of the Centre Foundation and as a trustee of Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, in the community where the couple owned a vacation home.

In addition to her two children, Zimmerman is survived by her sister and her brother-in-law, Suzy and Jim Broadhurst, Penn State alumni and leading volunteers and philanthropists.