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July 31, 2023

Donald Zillman, 79, remembered for leadership in UMaine System

Donald Zillman, a former president of the University of Maine at Presque Isle and namesake of the University of Maine's Zillman Art Museum, died Thursday at 79.

During Zillman’s tenure as UMPI president from 2006-12, he led several initiatives, including more than $4 million in renovations to the Pullen and Folsom buildings, created the four-year Nellie Mae Education Foundation-funded Project Compass, an effort to develop and improve culturally responsive retention strategies for the university’s Native American students; the founding of the Young Professionals Institute, the addition of a state-of-the-art GIS laboratory and established a scholarship fund.

“Don was a beloved leader, both on our campus and in our community, and he will be long remembered for his work, his service, and the many ways, great and small, that he impacted those around him,” said UMPI President Ray Rice. “Don came to our campus at a critical time and cleared a path toward a brighter future for us. He will be incredibly missed.”

University of Presque Isle
Donald N. Zillman

Zillman and his wife Linda established a research professorship in 2013 and gave the first money to start the Zillman Family Greenhouse for the agriculture science program. 

Zillman and his wife also gave $1.3 million in 2020 to expand the University of Maine Museum of Art in Bangor, which was named the Zillman Art Museum in their honor. He and Linda returned to the school in May 2022 to serve as UMPI’s commencement speakers and receive honorary doctorates.

Zillman was dean of the University of Maine School of Law from 1991 to 1998, interim provost and academic vice president from 1999 to 2000, and interim president of the University of Maine at Fort Kent from 2001 to 2002.

Zillman began his legal career as a captain at the Army Judge Advocate General’s School in Charlottesville, Va. After discharge from active duty, he began his civilian teaching career at Arizona State Law School and subsequently taught at the University of Utah and the University of Maine Law School. He also served as vsiting professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Zillman published 80 books and articles. In 2008, he achieved a distinct honor: he served as the co-author of two books published by the world’s leading academic publishing houses, Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press. His most recent publications include a chapter in Resilience in Energy, Infrastructure, and Natural Resources Law (Oxford University Press 2022), Energy Justice and Energy Law (Oxford University Press 2022, with del Guayo, Godden, Montoya, and Gonzalez,) and Military Memories (Anthem Press 2022)

He was a Rotarian for decades and served on boards for the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, Leaders of Encouraging Aroostook Development and United Way Aroostook. 

An avid runner, he competed in more than 1,000 road races. 

“Don was passionate about so many things, whether it was running, community service, scholarship and teaching, or connecting with people whenever the opportunity presented itself,” said Rice. “Everyone had a story about how approachable he was, how he made time to talk to them no matter how busy he was, and how he always seemed to be in attendance at every campus and community function on the calendar. Don set an incredible example of how to be a dedicated and compassionate leader and we are grateful for the indelible mark he left on our community.”

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