A Pioneer for the LGBT Community
Zimmerman began her career at SDSU as a lecturer in the Department of Women's Studies in 1978. Since then, she has taught more than a dozen different courses at the university. She also served as department chair from 1986 to 1992 and from 1995 to 1997.
Zimmerman realized she wanted to be a college professor when she was still in high school. "I liked being a student," she said. "I liked studying. I liked books. I liked writing. It seemed like that was the career path to go."
In addition to teaching, Zimmerman was instrumental in developing courses to cultivate the growth of women's and lesbian studies. "I was there from the beginning," Zimmerman said. "I was a graduate student, I was in women's studies, I was a lesbian, it all came together. When I came to San Diego State, it was an open and welcome environment … I was able to flourish because San Diego State was such an open environment."
Zimmerman, along with Edith Benkov, later created lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender courses in the mid-1990s. Although the courses began as a one-unit lecture series, they later expanded to three-units and became the foundation for the LGBT minor. The minor became official at the start of the 2009–10 academic year, making SDSU the third university in the California State University system to offer it.
Zimmerman has gained an international reputation for being one of the earliest pioneers in the field of lesbian studies. She has published numerous articles, as well as three books and an encyclopedia on lesbian histories and cultures.
"Bonnie Zimmerman is a model of what someone who works at the university should be," Benkov said. "(She is an) excellent teacher, excellent scholar and someone who really gave her life to university service as well for the bettering of the university and its faculty and its students."
Zimmerman has chosen to support Women's and LGBT Studies and has said her love for SDSU kept her from pursuing opportunities at other universities. "I got so much support," she said. "(SDSU) allows people to do what they want to do, not what the mainstream says you have to do. That was really great for me."
"This is such a fabulous university; sometimes people don't realize how fabulous it is," Zimmerman said. "This is a place that allowed me to just do everything and be everything that I could be."
In 2010, after 32 years of service, Bonnie retired from SDSU. Though she is no longer teaching, she continues to contribute to student success. Bonnie has designated a portion of her retirement pay to be deducted monthly and donated to SDSU. She has found this to be an easy way to further her giving.
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