Honors & Awards

Nominations for the 2020 Marlin Perkins Award and applications for the SSP Sustainability Awards are due December 16, 2019

The following awards were presented on September 10, 2019 at the Honors and Awards Luncheon during the AZA Annual Conference  in New Orleans.

2019 R. Marlin Perkins Award for Professional Excellence
Kristin L. Vehrs

2019 Devra Kleiman Award
Dr. Robert Lacy

Edward H. Bean Award
     TOP HONORS
Endangered Wolf Center—Mexican Wolf

Angela Peterson Excellence in Diversity Award
     TOP HONORS
Potter Park Zoo—Zoo In Your Neighborhood
     Significant Achievement
Oregon Zoo—Coordinated Initiative to Expand Our Circle of Inclusion
     Community Engagement
The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk—Accessibility for All

Education Award 
     TOP HONORS
Houston Zoo—Saving Wildlife School Partnership Program
     Significant Achievement
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum—Packrat Playhouse: Hidden in the Midden
Birmingham Zoo—ZooSchool
     Innovation
Nashville Zoo—Cougar Commodore Collaborative

Exhibit Award
     TOP HONORS
Nashville Zoo—Expedition PERU - Trek of the Andean Bear
New York Aquarium—Ocean Wonders: SHARKS!
     Significant Achievement
Oakland Zoo—California Trail
Zoo Knoxville—Boyd Family Asian Trek
     Innovation
National Aviary—National Aviary's Tropical Rainforest
Omaha Zoo and Aquarium—Children's Adventure Trails
Oregon Zoo—Oregon Zoo Education Center

William G. Conway International Conservation Award
     TOP HONORS
Monterey Bay Aquarium—Seafood Watch Program
Health in Harmony—Saving Orangutan Habitat by Providing Healthcare

North American Conservation Award
     TOP HONORS
Roger Williams Park Zoo/Queens Zoo—New England Cottontail Rabbit Captive Breeding and Recovery Program
     Significant Achievement
Oregon Zoo—Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery
     Innovation
Blank Park Zoo—Plant. Grow. Fly.

Excellence in Marketing Award
     TOP HONORS
Woodland Park Zoo—This Is How We Zoo
     Significant Achievement
Audubon Nature Institute—Audubon Zoo Lights presented by Children's Hospital 2018
Phoenix Zoo—Dinosaurs in the Desert
Toronto Zoo—Come See All That We Do At The Toronto Zoo
     Innovation
South Carolina Aquarium—The Journey Home

Volunteer Engagement Award
     TOP HONORS
The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk—Conversation 2 Conservation
     Significant Achievement
Greensboro Science Center—Animal Encounter Team
     Innovation
Dallas Zoo—Dallas Zoo Volunteers - Catalysts for Local and Global Conservation
The Wilds—Outstanding Wilds Learning Program (OWLs)

Awards Conferred via Nomination

R. Marlin Perkins Award for Professional Excellence

  • 2018 Honoree: J. Stephen McCusker
  • 2017 Honoree: Jacqueline Ogden, Ph.D.
  • 2016 Honoree: Chuck Bieler, Executive Director Emeritus, San Diego Zoo Global
  • 2015 Honoree: David L. Towne, Director Emeritus, Woodland Park Zoo
  • 2013 Honoree: Palmer "Satch" Krantz, President and CEO, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden
  • 2010 Honoree: Karen Sausman, President Emeritus, The Living Desert
  • 2008 Honoree: Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

In 1978, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums established its highest award for professional excellence, named for its first recipient, R. Marlin Perkins. Only one recipient can be honored in any given year, and since the award criteria are lofty, it is anticipated that the award will not be given every year.

Nominations are accepted year-round and are due no later than December 15th (December 16 in 2019 for the 2020 Award) of the year preceding the year in which the award is to be conferred. 

Animal Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award

  • 2018 Honoree: Terry L. Maple, Ph.D. 

Established July, 2017
Animal welfare is a critical part of modern professional animal care, and there are many animals that have benefited from the dedication of animal welfare practitioners. Individuals within the AZA community who have moved the field of animal welfare forward through implementation, research, education, veterinary care and professional development that improves animal lives deserve to and should be recognized.  The Animal Welfare Individual Leadership Award honors a person who significantly influences the quality of animals’ lives through long-term personal commitment to the field of animal welfare.  The significant contributions can be in the form of animal management, professional development, education, research, and/or exhibit design.  Only one recipient can be honored in any given year, and since the award criteria are lofty, it is anticipated that the award will not be given every year. Nominations for 2020 are due by June 1.

Animal Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award Nomination Guidelines

The Devra Kleiman Scientific Advancement Award

  • 2018 Honoree: presented posthumously to Michael Hutchins, Ph.D. 
  • 2017 Honoree: Kathy Carlstead, Ph.D.
  • 2016 Honoree: Jonathan D. Ballou, Ph.D., Research Scientist Emeritus, Smithsonian Institution
  • 2015 Honoree: Cheryl S. Asa, Ph.D., Director of Research, Saint Louis Zoo
  • First Award presented posthumously to Devra Kleiman in 2014 at the AZA Annual Conference in Orlando

In March, 2014, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums established an award to recognize outstanding scientific research contributions to the field(s) of animal management, education, and/or conservation within the AZA-accredited zoo and aquarium community. This award, named for its first recipient Devra Kleiman, honors an individual’s long-term commitment to using science-based research and mentoring others to advance the zoo and aquarium profession. Only one recipient can be honored in any given year, and since the award criteria are lofty, it is anticipated that the award will not be given every year. Nominations for 2020 are due by June 1.

Devra Kleiman Award Nomination Guidelines

Tim O'Sullivan Award for Professional Development

  • 2015 Recipient: Bruce Bohmke, Chief Operations Officer, Woodland Park Zoo
  • 2013 Recipient: Steve Marshall, Director, El Paso Zoo
  • 2012 Recipient: Kevin Willis, Director of Biological Programs, Minnesota Zoo
  • 2008 Recipient: Margaret A. Dankworth, AZA Executive Director 1972 - 1975
  • 2007 Recipient: John Hargleroad, Operations Director, Oglebay Park
  • 2005 Recipient: Earl Wells, Retired Director, Fort Wayne Children's Zoo (awarded posthumously)
  • 2004 Recipient: Bruce Carr, PhD, AZA Director of Conservation Education 

Deadline: June 1 annually
The Tim O'Sullivan Award for Professional Development recognizes significant long-term individual achievement and service to AZA members through the AZA Professional Development Program and the AZA Board of Regents.

About the Tim O'Sullivan Award

Wendy Fisher Award for Professional Excellence

  • 2017 Honoree: Gary H. Lee, AIA, RLA, Co-Founder and Senior Principal, CLR Design, Inc.
  • 2012 Honoree: Kevin McNicholas, K-M Concessions and Service Systems Associates (SSA)
  • 2010 Honoree: Charles M. Davis, FAIA, EHDD Architecture
  • 2007 Honoree: Joyce Basel, Adventure Boutique, Inc.

Deadline: June 1 annually
Commercial Members who have demonstrated outstanding character, leadership, professional excellence and distinguished service to AZA and fellow Commercial Members. The award is named for its first recipient, Wendy Fisher.

Wendy Fisher Award nomination form and guidelines

Honorary Membership Award

The AZA Board of Directors has instituted a moratorium on nominations for Honorary Membership while the Membership Committee and the Board of Directors are in the process of evaluating all membership categories.

AZA has created a special membership category to recognize both members and non-members who have made significant contributions to the profession. Candidates should not be working in the zoo or aquarium profession and are elected by the Board of Directors.

List of Honorary Membership recipients


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