Greg Geise, shown here feeding Daisy, a 17-year-old reticulated giraffe, has announced his retirement as president and chief executive officer of Binder Park Zoo. / Kevin Hare/The Enquirer
Greg Geise, Binder Park Zoo President & CEO to RetireSept 7, 2011
Founding Binder Park Zoo President and Chief Executive Officer, Greg Geise has announced his retirement on April 1, 2012. His tenure at Binder Park Zoo began on April Fools Day 1977, a date that seemed fitting to him and some others at the time, as the first employee of Binder Park Zoo.
Following a “checkered” early college career he spent three years in the U.S. Army including one year in Viet Nam as a Department of Defense Special Representative working for the National Security Agency. He then entered the University of Connecticut where he earned Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Animal Behavior.
When Geise accepted the position of Zoo Director of Battle Creek’s new Children’s Zoo in 1977, he anticipated a brief stay. He had worked at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island as a Zoologist for 16 months when he accepted the position in Battle Creek. He and his wife Joanne planned to move on to a larger city within two years. Geise quickly became involved in the community serving on the Boards of the Battle Creek/Calhoun County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Battle Creek International Festival of Lights, Doty Native Flower Garden Association, Battle Creek United Way, Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra, Battle Creek Linear Park Task Force, and Battle Creek Parks & Recreation Advisory Board to name a few.
Since 1998 he has also been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Zoology at Michigan State University lecturing in Zoo and Aquarium Science, teaching in the outreach program, and advising graduate students. He has also had considerable involvement in the national Association of Zoos & Aquariums and other national and international conservation organizations. Geise has done extensive consulting work with zoos nationally and nonprofits in Michigan. He plans to remain in the area following retirement and continue with these and other pursuits.
Binder Park Zoo has grown tremendously from a dream of the small children’s zoo of yesteryear to a world class zoo with award-winning exhibits. The opening of Wild Africa in 1999 marked the largest fundraising campaign and expansion of the Zoo to date, more than doubling the size of the Zoo. Now, 35 years and over 7 million guests later (plus over 1 million students reached through education outreach programs) Geise has decided to step down. During Geise’s tenure the zoo has raised almost $40 million, had total earned revenue of $60 million and served over 8 million people.
“I am particularly proud that we have become a world class facility with world class programs that are widely referenced and copied. We have become a recognized training facility for zoos nationwide with Binder Park Zoo trained folks having more and more impact on the professional development of the industry. The fact that the 1.7 million members of Michigan AAA named us one of the top five family attractions in Michigan and then the third best day trip in the state, ahead of Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village, that Wild Africa was nationally recognized and awarded by the AZA, that we were identified as one of “America’s Best Zoos” by the book of the same name, and that we have been awarded Anchor Organization status by the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs have been particular high points for me. Being one of a small handful of zoos in North America that has been built and run from the beginning without regular substantial tax subsidies has proven that, not only do we deliver a wide array of effective education, conservation, and recreation programming, but that we are succeeding in running a highly efficient and entrepreneurial, mission driven, nonprofit business. No easy thing in the “interesting” times in which we are living” Geise stated.
“This is the right time for me and Binder Park Zoo” commented Geise. “I’ve spent almost my entire career here at Binder Park Zoo, and it really became a second home to me. The area has been a great place to live for my wife Joanne and me. I’m proud of the work we’ve done and what the Zoo has become. I am particularly proud of the great team of staff and volunteers who have made it possible. I will miss them greatly. I hope the community is proud of their Zoo, too. I know I appreciate the support they’ve given us, and me, over the years.”
The Zoo’s Board of Directors has been preparing for the executive succession for eight months and will be overseeing a national search and selection process. The position will be posted in September with the new CEO beginning next April.
“We’ve been fortunate to have had such consistent leadership of one of our greatest community assets,” said Ed Burnham Binder Park Zoo Board Chairperson. “I don’t know if anyone could have envisioned what Binder Park Zoo has become and we appreciate all of Greg’s hard work and dedication. The Board is committed to finding a new executive that will continue to take the Zoo in positive directions into the future.”
For more information about Binder Park Zoo visit www.binderparkzoo.org.
About Binder Park Zoo
Over 7,000,000 people have visited Binder Park Zoo and an additional 550,000 have been served through outreach programs since it first opened in 1977. It is located outside of Battle Creek, Michigan, on 433 acres of natural forests and wetlands. In the past 34 years, the Zoo has grown to be one of the leading cultural attractions in the region. It was created on the model of an entrepreneurial self-supporting nonprofit organization, and is managed by a zoological society board of directors to "nurture empathy, understanding, and conservation of nature." In the last several years a conservation education center, a 40-acre natural wetlands exhibit, and the 50-acre Wild Africa exhibit and conservation carousel have been added to the original 80-acre zoo. Binder Park Zoo serves over 65,000 people annually in 30 different types of formal education programs and is heavily involved in conservation of wildlife and natural habitats on five continents. In cooperation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and others, Binder Park Zoo is actively working to conserve a wide array of endangered species both at the Zoo and worldwide.
Binder Park Zoo Highlights
April 1, 1977 – Geise’s first day
May 1977 – Miller Petting Zoo opened
August 1977 – Z.O. & O. Railroad makes its inaugural run
Winter 1979 – First Zoomobile Outreach Program
January 1982 – Wildlife Education Center opens
January 1983 – Animal Care Center (first permanent animal building) completed
March 1983 - Binder Park Zoo awarded full accreditation by AAZPA
October 1985 – Entrance Boardwalk completed
October 1987 – First ZooBoo
June 1989 – Miller Children’s Zoo opens
September 1989 – 1 Millionth visitor arrives
April 1991 – Beulah’s Restaurant opens
March 1994 – Cross Administration Building opens
June 1995 – Binda Conservation Discovery Center opens
September 1998 – Rost Veterinary Hospital opens
June 1999 – Wild Africa opens
May 2007 – Binda Conservation Carousel opens
June 2008 – Smith Snow Leopard Encounter opens
May 2009 – Smith Wildlife Discovery Theater opens
October 2010 – 7 Millionth visitor arrives
AZA Members: Submit your Zoo & Aquarium News