Mary Ann Zimmerman, P.E.

SWE Fellow and life member, used her training to contribute to international development

mary zimmerman headshot black and white

Mary Ann Zimmerman, P.E., began her career as a traffic engineer, moved on to the design and study of engines, and then coordinated product-related environmental programs. Over the course of her career, she worked on projects ranging from the design and implementation of the City of Chicago’s bikeway system to director of small engine parts and product planning to the director of the Employee Development Center at Cummins.

Moving into new directions, Zimmerman used her training as an engineer to contribute to international development. She spent more than 25 years working on projects designed to apply innovation to address social issues. For some of that time, she was a contractor with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. Her work took her to less-traveled parts of the world, including Senegal and Mongolia.

Zimmerman continually supported and contributed to the advancement of women in engineering. She joined SWE in 1963 while a student at Purdue University, serving as president of the section. During her years at Purdue, the number of women engineering students was less than one-half of 1%. She and her parents collaborated with the Purdue Mortar Board and engineering alumnae to create the Zimmerman Family Women in Engineering Award, designed to recognize the accomplishments of a woman student while encouraging women’s leadership, which is still given annually. She graduated with a B.S. (1966) and M.S. (1968), both in civil engineering.

Joining the Chicago Section, she served in leadership positions. After moving to Indiana, she became a member-at-large, also holding leadership roles. Zimmerman was active in a number of other professional and service organizations, including the National Society of Professional Engineers, which she served as president of the Indiana State Chapter. She was a member of the Purdue Engineering visiting committee, served as president of the Zonta Club of Columbus, and was active in the American Association of University Women.

The author of many papers, she wrote on topics as diverse as “Managing Through Corporate Transition,” to “Bicycle Facility Planning and Design,” to “The Impact of Racism and Sexism on Organizational Effectiveness.”

In 1980, Zimmerman was a finalist in the White House Fellows program. Among her honors, she was the first woman to receive the Purdue University School of Engineering Alumna Award. She was named a SWE Fellow in 1986.

Word recently reached SWE that Zimmerman died in May 2020.

Anne Perusek, SWE Director of Editorial and Publications

Sources: SWE Archives, Purdue University College of Engineering, “Honoring Innovation”