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Doris A. Zimmerman '70: A Life Inspires Scholarships and a Sculpture

Posted on October 7, 2021
Doris A. Zimmerman '70

The legacy of the late Doris A. Zimmerman ’70 is honored at Drexel in multiple ways. One is the “Drexel Book,” a polished stainless steel and black granite sculpture of an open book that stands in the courtyard of the Rush Building at the center of the University City campus. Another is an endowed scholarship fund that her family established to support graduate students enrolled at the College of Computing & Informatics.

Described by the University’s seventh president, William W. Hagerty, as a “delightful and lively person and a most effective trustee,” Doris began her time at Drexel in the early 1960s after receiving a bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Pennsylvania. While raising a large family (ultimately including seven children) in the Philadelphia suburbs, she earned an MS in library science at what was then the School of Library and Information Science, which was housed in the Rush Building.

While pursuing a career as a librarian, board member of various libraries and in roles at the Pennsylvania Library Association, Doris remained actively involved in Drexel as a leader in the alumni association. She enjoyed advancing the mission of the library science school by producing newsletters, radio advertisements and exhibits.

Ten years following her graduation, Doris was named to Drexel’s board of trustees, serving briefly before her death in an automobile accident.

In 2002, the family used a bequest from their mother to establish the Doris Zimmerman Endowed Scholarship Fund. To date, their endowment has supported 44 graduate students primarily at the master’s level, based on academic merit and financial need, in disciplines including library and information science, computer science, information systems, data science and human-computer interaction and user experience. Student recipients of the fund have come to Drexel from Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York and other states, and from China, India, Russia and other countries.

While enrolled at Drexel, recent scholarship recipients of the Doris Zimmerman Fund have completed co-ops and internships at varied companies and organizations including the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Phillies and Wells Fargo.

To further ensure that even more students can receive scholarship support in honor of Doris Zimmerman’s memory, one of her sons, Tom Mariani, and a daughter, Carla, each have made bequest pledges that will increase the size and impact of the fund.

“Along with her love for Drexel, our mother had many interests,” says Carla Mariani. “She was an avid reader and loved the arts. She valued diversity and inclusion, inheriting those values from her parents and instilling them in us. Somehow, she found time for gardening. Our mother loved Drexel. It was Mom’s idea to create the alumni garden in the courtyard where the book sculpture stands. She would be delighted by how many students now enjoy this beautiful, serene space.”

The family also notes with pride that Antonia Cianfrani, a granddaughter of Doris’s, graduated from Drexel in 2015 with a master’s degree in creative arts therapies and counseling. She is an artist and art therapist who also is an adjunct professor at the College of Nursing and Health Professions. 

“We enjoy hearing about the many students who have been awarded the scholarships named for our mother,” says another daughter, Kathryn Mariani. “Because of Drexel, they receive an excellent education and they go on to fulfilling careers. It’s a real privilege for our family to be a part of their success, particularly in a way that honors our mother.”

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