Dear UMPI Community,
It is with a most heavy heart that I share the news of Donald N. Zillman’s passing early this morning. Don served as UMPI’s president from 2006-2012 and was a beloved leader, not just on our campus, but on the many other University of Maine System campuses where he provided critical leadership over the years as well as in the communities where he lived and offered up countless hours of service.
Don was known for many things: his eloquence in delivering talks, his willingness to strike up a conversation with anyone while taking his dog Matisse (and later Vinnie) for walks and runs around campus, his dedication as a scholar, his passion for running (in 2022, he fulfilled his lifelong desire to finish well over 1,000 road races), and his love for Rotary. But he was most especially known around campus for how much he cared about this place and each and every person here. After announcing that he would be stepping down in 2012, he noted: “What started as an emergency fill-in for two years has been the most rewarding and challenging work in my career. I will miss it greatly and look forward to staying connected with UMPI when I return to full time teaching and academic research in Maine.”
And stay connected he did. He and his wife Linda established the Zillman Family Professorship in 2013, which has allowed our faculty to conduct deep dives into their research. They provided the very first gift to the Zillman Family Greenhouse, expanding the 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, giving us the Linda G. and Donald N. Zillman Art Museum. And they returned to UMPI just last year to serve as our commencement speakers and receive honorary doctorates. I know it is a sadness to me, personally, and others who knew Don that this would be his last visit here.
Our thoughts are with Linda at this difficult time. I’ll be sure to pass along the obituary and related information as it becomes available. But let me end this message the way Don would, with a bright note. There are several people who have had a profound impact on UMPI throughout its history–Sanford Preble, Clifford O.T. Wieden, Caroline Gentile. And I would add Don’s name alongside them. He came to us at a most critical time and cleared a path toward a brighter future for us. He will be incredibly missed.