Wednesday, September 23, 2015

In Memoriam:
Former IASB President Ray Zimmerman

Raymond W. “Ray” Zimmerman of Flanagan, a former president of the Illinois Association of School Boards, died Sunday, Sep. 20, 2015. He was 68.

Zimmerman was IASB president in 2004-2005. Reflecting on his presidency, in 2013 Zimmerman said IASB addressed the major issues of the day by “lobbying at the state and national levels for adequate funds for mandated programs,” and “educating board members, elected officials, and the general public about school matters and how they affect everyone.”

A former teacher, Zimmerman was elected in 1988 to the school board of Flanagan Unit District 4 in Livingston County, which later became Flanagan-Cornell Unit District 74. He served that board for 24 years. He was a director of the Corn Belt Division starting in 1995. He served on the IASB Executive Committee from 1999 through his terms as president and past president, including two years as vice president and resolutions committee chair.

In 2005, Zimmerman attended the 2005 NSBA annual conference in San Diego, where he met former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who was a keynote speaker at the event.

He offered this advice to board members in IASB’s 2014 Centennial publication: “Understand that the more time and effort that you put in being a board member and use the training offered by IASB to help reach your goals, the better you will serve your local school and your community. It [school board service] is one of the best things you can do for your community and yourself.”

In 2012, Zimmerman noted that the many challenges of school board service remain the same, but that board members can take comfort knowing “kids have done well, and we should be proud of what we have done."

Current IASB President Karen Fisher recalls working with Zimmerman.

“Ray was knowledgeable and a very capable leader,” Fisher said. “His encouragement was heartfelt. He was never too busy to spend some time discussing local issues and wondering if there was anything he could do to help. I will miss seeing him at Conference because I looked forward to an update on what new was happening in his family life. While he was nearing the end of his journey as Past President when I arrived as a director, that time wasn’t too short to have had a positive impact on me. He will be missed.”

Mark Harms, current IASB director of the Corn Belt Division, worked with Zimmerman on the Flanagan-Cornell Unit District 74 Board of Education.

“I will always remember Ray’s passion for education,” Harms said. “He would always remind us as board members to do ‘What’s best for the kids,’ and that kids always came first. He had a strong respect for everyone at our school; it didn’t matter what your role was, it was important to our success. Also, he was a strong advocate for the IASB – he understood the importance of the organization and the impact it has on education. In his eyes, this is the top organization in the country and he was very proud to be part of it.”

Born March 30, 1947, in Pontiac, Zimmerman was the son of Eldon and Irma Crawford Zimmerman. He married Marge E. Finney in 1980 in Arizona. She survives along with two sons, John (Jennifer) Zimmerman of Flanagan and Ben (Sara) Zimmerman of Wisconsin; one brother, Howard Zimmerman of Chenoa; and four grandchildren, Payton, Grace, Annika, and Celia. He was a farmer and independent construction contractor.

A celebration of life will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at St. John’s Lutheran Church Parish Hall in Flanagan. Calvert-Johnson & Froelich Memorial Home in Flanagan is assisting with arrangements. Memorials may be made to the Ray Zimmerman agriculture scholarship fund that will be given to a Flanagan-Cornell High School student.