News & Events

UMPI mourns passing of former president

Members of the University of Maine at Presque Isle community are mourning the passing of Donald N. Zillman, the institution’s 10th president, who served from 2006-2012. Zillman died July 27, 2023, at the age of 79.

“Don was a beloved leader, both on our campus and in our community, and he will be long remembered for his work, his service, and the many ways, great and small, that he impacted those around him,” UMPI President Ray Rice said. “Don came to our campus at a critical time and cleared a path toward a brighter future for us. He will be incredibly missed.”

During his many years in Maine, Zillman served in leadership capacities on multiple campuses within the University of Maine System, including Dean of the University of Maine School of Law from 1991-1998, Interim Provost and Academic Vice President at the University of Maine from 1999-2000, and Interim President of the University of Maine at Fort Kent from 2001-2002. In 2006, he accepted an interim presidency at UMPI that became a permanent post. In 2012, he returned full time to academic pursuits. Throughout this time, he served a unique dual role as the Edward S. Godfrey Professor of Law at Maine Law from 1990 until his retirement in 2019.

As UMPI’s 10th president, he led several major initiatives, including: more than $4 million in renovations to UMPI’s major classroom building, Pullen and Folsom Halls; the establishment of several renewable energy systems on campus, from solar to wind to biomass; the four-year, Nellie Mae Education Foundation-funded Project Compass effort to develop and improve culturally responsive retention strategies for UMPI’s Native American students; the founding of the Young Professionals Institute, the region’s premier leadership development training experience; and the addition of a state-of-the-art GIS laboratory. He also established a scholarship fund for new students while serving at UMPI.

Even after his departure from UMPI, together with his wife Linda, he remained connected. They established the Zillman Family Professorship in 2013 through a designated fund at the Maine Community Foundation. As UMPI’s first rotating professorship, it allows UMPI faculty to conduct in-depth research over a two-year period. They provided the very first gift to the Zillman Family Greenhouse—the newest building on the UMPI campus—expanding the institution’s capacity for on-campus agricultural research. Their gift to expand the University of Maine Museum of Art in Bangor to include five new galleries impacted art lovers around the state, resulting in the Linda G. and Donald N. Zillman Art Museum. They returned to campus in May 2022 to serve as UMPI’s commencement speakers and receive honorary doctorates.

Zillman began his legal career as a Captain at the Army Judge Advocate General’s School in Charlottesville, VA. After discharge from active duty, he began his civilian teaching career at Arizona State Law School and subsequently taught at the University of Utah and the University of Maine Law School. He also served as Visiting Professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Over the years, he has published 80 books and articles on a wide range of subjects. In 2008, he achieved a distinct honor: he served as the co-author of two books published by the world’s leading academic publishing houses, Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press. His most recent publications include a chapter in Resilience in Energy, Infrastructure, and Natural Resources Law (Oxford University Press 2022), Energy Justice and Energy Law (Oxford University Press 2022, with del Guayo, Godden, Montoya, and Gonzalez) and Military Memories (Anthem Press 2022).

In terms of his civic activities, he has been a Rotarian for decades, maintaining membership in the Presque Isle Rotary Club from 2006-2012 and serving as President of the Portland Rotary Club (Maine) in 2017-2018. During his time in Presque Isle, he also served on the boards of directors for Aroostook Partnership for Progress, Maine School of Science and Mathematics, Leaders Encouraging Aroostook Development, and United Way of Aroostook. He has also been an avid competitive runner; in 2022, he fulfilled a lifelong dream to complete well over 1,000 road races.

“Don was passionate about so many things, whether it was running, community service, scholarship and teaching, or connecting with people whenever the opportunity presented itself,” President Rice said. “Everyone had a story about how approachable he was, how he made time to talk to them no matter how busy he was, and how he always seemed to be in attendance at every campus and community function on the calendar. Don set an incredible example of how to be a dedicated and compassionate leader and we are grateful for the indelible mark he left on our community.”

To view a message that UMPI President Ray Rice shared with the campus community, visit https://www.umpi.edu/offices/president/message/loss-of-president-donald-n-zillman/.