Zimmerman named Berkowitz Chair at Penn GSE

July 30, 2020
Jonathan Zimmerman teaching a class.

Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of the history of education in Penn GSE’s Literacy, Culture, and International Education division, has been named the Judy & Howard Berkowitz Professor in Education. Considered one of the foremost education historians today, Zimmerman has been listed among Education Week’s annual Top 100 "Edu-Scholars" who influence public discussion in the USA for the past decade.

Using the proceeds from the Berkowitz Chair, Zimmerman is launching the Berkowitz Fellowship in History of Education beginning Fall 2021. It will help fund a fifth year of study for doctoral students who are admitted in tandem to the Graduate School of Education and the Department of History, where Zimmerman holds a secondary appointment. Berkowitz Fellows will receive a joint Ph.D. in Education and History, the only funded joint degree between a school of education and a history department in the United States.

Zimmerman is the author of seven books about the history of education, with two more appearing in the forthcoming academic year: The Amateur Hour: A History of College Teaching in America (Johns Hopkins University Press, October 2020) and Free Speech, and Why You Should Give a Damn, co-authored with Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Signe Wilkinson (City of Lights Press, February 2021). Currently, Zimmerman is researching a book about how American schools and universities have experienced and addressed health epidemics over the past two centuries.

A public intellectual and journalist, Zimmerman is the author of over 500 op-ed articles and essays; his work is regularly published in the New York Times, New York Review of Books, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, and other popular newspapers and magazines. Many of his pieces connect history to our current educational circumstances or advocate for the preservation of free speech and the importance of hearing and understanding alternate viewpoints. Reflecting his commitment to the importance of diverse perspectives, Zimmerman was the recent winner of the 2019 Leadership Award from Heterodox Academy, the nation's largest organization dedicated to viewpoint diversity in American higher education.

Zimmerman has received book and article prizes from the American Educational Research Association, the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era, and the History of Education Society, where he served as president in 2009–2010. He is the co-editor of both the "Histories of American Education" book series at Cornell University Press and the "History and Philosophy of Education" book series at University of Chicago Press. He has received several research awards from the Spencer Foundation, one of which also supported a kickoff conference for his University of Chicago book series.

Prior to joining the faculty of Penn GSE in 2016, Zimmerman was at New York University for 20 years. He directed New York University’s History of Education Program for 15 years and received NYU's Distinguished Teaching Award, the university's highest prize for teaching. His former Ph.D. students have gone on to hold faculty positions at Brown University, Carleton College, City University of New York, the University of Texas, and dozens of other institutions. Zimmerman is also a former Peace Corps Volunteer and secondary school social studies teacher.

The Judy & Howard Berkowitz Chair was endowed in 1995 with a gift from Judy and Howard Berkowitz. This Chair was donated by the Berkowitz family in order to facilitate a study of ethnic relations, cultural pluralism, and diversity as they relate to education.