Ohio salutes a great treasure and says “thank you.” Photo by Becker1999 on flickr.
After 42 years serving as director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Jack Hanna is retiring. His love for animals has made him known throughout the world.
Hanna was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on a farm. During his childhood, he would assist the local veterinarian. Hanna attended Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio and majored in business and political science. He met his wife, Suzi, at college and married her during his senior year.
In the early ‘70s, Hanna directed the small Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens. He was offered a position at the Columbus Zoo in 1978. At the time, the Columbus Zoo was rundown and didn’t attract many visitors. Hanna turned the zoo around with his upbeat attitude, work ethic and passion for animals. Despite his title as the zoo’s director, Hanna would pick up litter as he walked the grounds.
Jack’s likable demeanor was an asset in creating PR for the Columbus Zoo. He was given the opportunity to host a TV show called “Hanna’s Ark.” Despite Jack’s increasing notoriety as he appeared on national TV programs, he continued to focus on the growth and development of the Columbus Zoo. Animal enclosures were improved, and the grounds were expanded.
Hanna is also an influential spokesperson for animal conservation around the globe. He helped create Partners in Conservation, the Columbus Zoo’s signature conservation project that works to save endangered animals and their habitats.
Hanna’s enthusiasm for animals has made him a national star. In spite of all his fame, he is a humble man.