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Honoring the life of Barbara Zimmerman Dev ’61

Barbara (Zimmerman) Dev ‘61 Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund

Barbara Zimmerman Dev ’61 moved to California from Chicago as an infant, due to her father’s US Navy transfer. Tragically, when she was only 5 years old, her father suddenly passed away and Barbara was sent to a boarding school in Palo Alto, while her mother figured out what to do.

On weekends, when classmates usually went home, Barbara spent most of her time exploring the gardens and surrounding area. It was through these explorations that she developed a life-long love of nature.

Her mother, then a Navy widow, soon found a job at the Navy Supply Center in Alameda–so Barbara moved back home and was eventually enrolled at Our Lady of Lourdes. This was the beginning of a strong Catholic school education that continued on to Holy Names High School, and then Holy Names College. These were days she spoke of fondly.

Barbara loved chemistry and math and knew she was talented in these areas. Under the mentorship of Sr. Ambrose, she focused her studies on biological sciences and chemistry. Although Barbara was offered the opportunity to pursue graduate work in teacher education at Stanford, God had another plan. She enrolled at UC Davis as one of the few female chemistry graduate students; she soon met a fellow student named Vasu. After a brief period of dating, they married in Davis as Vasu was nearing completion of his post-doctoral studies at the University of Chicago.

Vasu wanted to also hold a marriage ceremony in his home country of India, and the happy couple then spent three months with Vasu’s family. When they returned to the US, they spent a bit of time in Memphis, where their son was born. But the racially chaotic South in the mid-1960s led Barbara and Vasu to look for a calmer place to raise their family. Being very familiar and comfortable with living in California, they knew they wanted to return.

Cal Poly Pomona offered Vasu a teaching position and the university area became their home for more than 40 years. They welcomed another child to the family, a daughter. Barbara also took loving care of her aging mother. For more than 15 years, Barbara was the full-time caregiver of her family.

Barbara felt drawn to further pursue her interest in biochemistry. She eventually received her doctorate in biochemistry at Loma Linda University in nearby Loma Linda, California. She later joined the faculty at Cal Poly Pomona as a lecturer until she retired.

Barbara always loved reading (anything and everything!) and swimming and water aerobics with friends. She learned to quilt while an active member of Cal Poly Pomona Women’s Club, whose quilts became auction items at university fundraisers. She was always smiling and loved children.

Vasu and Barbara shared a love of nature and spent much time in Yosemite and Lake Tahoe with their children and grandchildren. They traveled around the world on Fulbright Fellowships and Road Scholars educational trips. On a trip to Arizona, they began chatting with another couple from Chicago. As luck would have it, one of them was Barbara’s long-lost first cousin! Thanks to Barbara’s outgoing personality, they had finally found each other. 

After a beautiful 55-year marriage, Barbara Dev passed away in October 2019. Vasu and his children wanted to establish a legacy for Barbara, and knew that Holy Names University would be the right place to do so. They established the Barbara (Zimmerman) Dev ’61 Memorial Scholarship, which will support undergraduate students studying biological sciences with a preference for those also pursuing a chemistry minor.

Barbara Dev believed that education was an investment with a lifelong impact. She believed deeply in the values of the Sisters of the Holy Names, as well as the kind of education Holy Names University provides to its students. Barbara spoke of her love for this community, and through her family’s generous gift, her legacy will now live on for generations of HNU students to come.