Rudy Nimocks Sr., community leader and former UChicago police chief, 1929–2021

Trusted mentor remembered for his commitment to South Side, local youth

Rudy Nimocks Sr., a former University of Chicago police chief and longtime community leader, died March 16. He was 91.

Remembered as a “bridge builder” and trusted mentor, Nimocks began his career at the University in 1989, when he started a nearly two-decade stint as chief of the University of Chicago Police Department. In 2009, he became director of community partnerships in the Office of Civic Engagement, where he focused on collaboration between the University and neighboring communities.

“Every time I get something accomplished, I’m invigorated to do something else,” he said in 2011.

In 2012, the 6100 block of South Greenwood Avenue on the south edge of campus was dedicated as Rudy and Joyce Nimocks Way—a tribute to Nimocks and his wife of more than 50 years. He retired five years later with a number of other accolades to his name, including the University’s Diversity Leadership Award and a spot in Chicago’s Senior Citizen Hall of Fame.

“He led with integrity and empathy, and he always brought a spirit of collaboration into every situation,” said Sonya Malunda, who worked with Nimocks for more than 20 years as UChicago’s former senior associate vice president for community engagement.

‘Rudy was so special’

Many colleagues, city officials, friends and family members shared memories of Nimocks during a March 23 funeral service at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Though COVID-19 restrictions limited in-person attendance, many also shared heartfelt messages of gratitude through a livestream.

“Rudy was so special,” said Derek Douglas, UChicago vice president of civic engagement and external affairs. “I learned so much from him about the true meaning of community partnerships and the responsibility the University had to make a difference on the South Side.”

“Rudy was always focused on the well-being of others—specifically on the well-being of the communities that he served, and in particular the young people in these communities,” President Robert J. Zimmer said. “He was always looking for the next step, the next important thing that could be done to make lasting change and to help the community. Change, of course, is not simple. I always greatly admired not only Rudy’s determination to help make significant change, but his ability to carry it out.”

Born May 18, 1929, Nimocks was an adventurous spirit who once rode cross-country on his motorcycle, spent time in the United States Army, and had a short stint as a boxer. He also was known for his rich knowledge of Chicago history, and his colorful stories about local politicians and musicians. Before joining the University, Nimocks spent more than three decades in the Chicago Police Department, becoming the first African American to lead the homicide section and the organized crime division.

Civil rights activist Timuel D. Black, AM’54, recalled how Nimocks—a longtime Woodlawn resident—built a deeper sense of trust between the University and its South Side neighbors. The 102-year-old Black worked under Nimocks’ father at the Chicago Metropolitan Mutual Assurance Company before and after World War II. He later got to know the younger Nimocks through their community work.

“He was not just protective physically but also spiritually,” Black said. “I was just proud to know and be associated with Rudy Nimocks.”

A fatherly figure

When Nimocks began working in what is now the Office of Civic Engagement, he also had an opportunity to build on his longtime commitment to Chicago youth. One particularly creative effort, Malunda recounted, brought Emmy-winning actor Charles Dutton’s one-man autobiographical play to the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts—an event that benefitted the Chicago Youth Leadership Academy.

As a UChicago undergraduate, Ryan Priester, AB’01, first encountered Nimocks when he spoke to the Organization of Black Students. Nimocks later became a mentor to Priester, who worked as a community organizer before returning to the University to lead the Community Programs Accelerator in the Office of Civic Engagement.

Now at the MacArthur Foundation, Priester credits Nimocks with encouraging him to be more thoughtful and collaborative. He described Nimocks as a “fatherly, grandfatherly figure”—one who understood how to listen to and talk with people who were skeptical of the police or University officials.

“Everybody knew and trusted and respected Mr. Nimocks, so people would stop and listen,” Priester said. “He was that one voice across multiple generations. … He spent a lot of time with me, and I’m a lot better for it as a person.”

—Adapted from a story first published by the Office of Civic Engagement.