Honoring Gabe Zimmerman: UCSC nears endowment goal

Gabriel Zimmerman, enjoying a walk in Grand Teton National Park in 2009. (Photo courtesy of Ross Zimmerman)

Donors are closing in on their fundraising goal to establish the Gabriel Zimmerman Scholarship honoring the hard-working, socially conscious UCSC grad who died in the Jan. 8 shootings at a "Congress On Your Corner" event in Tucson, Arizona.

After less than two months of fundraising, the fund now stands at $40,000, just $10,000 short of establishing an endowment, said Marcus Frost, assistant director of development for the Social Sciences Division.

"It is so close," Frost said. "It is just that final push that we need."

The money will go to UCSC social sciences students who are in financial need and are seeking careers in social justice or public service.

The fundraising effort began the day after the tragedy in Tucson. Jonathan Klein, a UCSC graduate and donor to the Social Sciences Division, decided to put the scholarship together. He’d never met Zimmerman, but Klein and Zimmerman were both affiliated with Stevenson College.

Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors in Pima County, Ariz., have voted unanimously to rename an Arizona desert trailhead after Gabe Zimmerman. The trail travels from the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve to the Arizona Trail. The supervisors also voted to rename the Cañada del Oro linear river park for Christina-Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl who also died in the attack. Markers along the Zimmerman trailhead will also honor other victims of the attack.

In a statement released by Giffords’ office, Gabriel Zimmerman’s father, Ross Zimmerman, described his son’s immersion in the southwestern desert’s natural beauty:

"Before he could crawl, Gabe was carried in sling packs up the sides of mountains," Ross Zimmerman said. "Vacations tended to revolve around visits to National Parks, both inside and outside the United States. Emily Nottingham, his mother, became president of the Arizona Trail Association and Gabe helped her explore the passages of the Arizona Trail, including this one."

Gabe often embarked on nature expeditions and enjoyed hikes in the Sonoran Desert, Ross Zimmerman continued. He was also a member of the Arizona Trail Association. While working for Giffords, he was part of a successful effort to get National Scenic Trail designation for the Arizona Trail.

"The spot chosen to memorialize our son is a fascinating confluence of Sonoran Desert edge and sheer canyon walls with beautiful vegetation," Ross Zimmerman said. "Gabe visited the area with Emily on several occasions and we are touched that the trailhead there will bear his name."

At UCSC, Gabe Zimmerman was active and outspoken in his social sciences classes. Friends remembered his commitment to social justice issues, mediation and non-violent conflict resolution. Frost said that Zimmerman’s work ethic and values influenced many people, whether or not they knew him personally at UCSC. About a quarter of the 180 people who have contributed to the Zimmerman fund are UCSC alumni.

Two of the most recent donations amounted to a total of $3,500. Both of those new gifts came in at the 2011 Scholarship Benefit Dinner held on February 26.

The list of donors includes people "who felt touched by his story in some way – people whose careers have taken them into public service or are conscious of social justice," Frost said. "He had his choice of careers and decided to pick a career that allowed him to give back. I think that spoke to people."

Once the fund gets endowed, fundraisers will continue their work. "We want to make this fund as big and robust as it can possibly be,"  Frost said. 

Those who wish to donate may contact Joop Rubens at (831) 502-7275 or jrubens@ucsc.edu.

The address for this fund is: 

The Gabriel Zimmerman Scholarship Fund 
Joop Rubens, Social Sciences, UC Santa Cruz
1156 High St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95064