As a boy on a bicycle, Tim Zimmer raced over the sidewalks at Eastern Illinois University, not realizing at the time that he would, one day, ultimately be responsible for the upkeep of those same walkways.
Earlier this year, the Mahomet resident was serving as associate director for construction services at the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign. Upon discovering that Eastern was seeking a director for its Facilities Planning and Management division, Zimmer submitted his application.
“The position appealed to me on many levels,” he said.
There were, of course, the memories of the town and the university when, as a youth, he visited his grandparents – long-time Charleston residents Lloyd and Katherine Thudium. Even though he is a native of Neoga, Zimmer talks knowledgeably about former city landmarks, including, as an example, the former community pool, once located at the southwest corner of Lincoln Avenue and Division Street.
But he also longed for the opportunity to work at a university where academics and interpersonal relationships reign.
“I brought my wife down for Homecoming and every few steps, I’d find myself introducing her to yet someone else new and from all facets of university life – not just facilities,” Zimmer said. “In fact, at one point, this tall fellow standing about 15 feet away turned around and, with a wave, yelled out, ‘Hi, Tim.’ And it was President Perry.
“You just don’t experience those types of relationships at bigger institutions,” he added. “We’ve got some very friendly folks here.”
As director of Facilities Planning and Management, Zimmer is responsible for the overall operations, maintenance, construction, renewal and continuous stewardship of the campus’ physical facilities. Specific areas of responsibility include management, oversight, fiscal authority and direction of maintenance functions in all buildings; grounds care; utilities and their infrastructure; engineering and architectural service delivery; campus design and construction activities; project management and coordination; renovations and alterations to campus assets; and janitorial services in administrative, classroom and athletics buildings.
“President (Bill) Perry and I have high expectations for the facilities team,” said William Weber, vice president for business affairs. “Mr. Zimmer has a proven record of accomplishments, and I believe he will be an outstanding director of Facilities Planning and Management at Eastern."
Zimmer comes prepared for his new role, having served nearly 14 years at the U of I and seven years in the U.S. Air Force working in related positions. He received his bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., and completed graduate work toward a master’s degree at the University of Tennessee-Tullahoma and the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Zimmer assumed his post at Eastern on Aug. 1. Since then, he said, he’s spent a good deal of his time as director “observing and absorbing.” Meetings, of course, have been plentiful and he’s looking forward to visiting the various individuals he’s met through those meetings on their own turf – in the classroom, the laboratory or the office.
He and his wife, Peg, also plan to begin building a home in Charleston – on land once owned by his grandparents.
There are no regrets about taking the position at EIU.
“My daughter recently told me, ‘you seem happier now.’ And I am,” he said. ‘It’s really been great."