Robert O. Wagner Scholarship

In recognition of the outstanding achievements of Robert O. Wagner and to encourage participation in the AZA Professional Development Program, the Professional Development Committee offers to aquarium and zoo professionals the Robert O. Wagner Scholarship to provide additional financial opportunities for individuals and institutions.

Applicants for the Robert O. Wagner award demonstrate committed professional involvement in AZA programs or conservation activities, leadership ability or leadership potential and a dedication to professional growth. Applicants must be an AZA individual member employed in an AZA zoo, aquarium or related facility. Members of international AZA institutions are also welcome to apply. 

This award may be applied toward any of the AZA Professional Development Courses.

Scholarship Application

2024 application coming soon. Click here for an example of the 2023 application.  Full submission information is included in the application. Only one scholarship application may be submitted per individual per year. Applications are evaluated and recipients are chosen by the AZA Professional Development Committee.

Application Timeline
  • 2024 Scholarship Applications open in Summer 2023
  • Applicants will be notified of their application status in Fall 2023
  • All scholarships must be used for Professional Development courses in 2024

Application Materials:

  • Scholarship Application Form
  • Two (2) Letters of Reference
  • Resume 

Please note: If you do not receive the award and plan to take the course anyway, the scholarship application does not represent a reserved space in an AZA course. To secure a space in a course you must submit a complete registration and pay the tuition in full. If you receive the award, your full tuition payment will be refunded.

Detailed Award Coverage

  • Course registration (full)
  • Round-trip airfare from the award recipient’s point of origin to the destination city (up to $700)
  • Round-trip airport shuttle ground transportation (full)
  • Hotel/lodging throughout the duration of the course (based on double occupancy rate)
  • A stipend to cover meals and incidentals.

Any questions, contact the Professional Development Program at

About Robert O. Wagner

AZA Executive Director 1975-1992
AZA Chief Administrative Officer 1992-1996
R. Marlin Perkins Award
1994 AZA Honorary Member

Bob was born in Evansville, Indiana, on August 15, 1935. He attended Purdue University where he studied zoology. Bob began his zoo career as a Keeper at Mesker Park Zoo, Evansville, Indiana, in 1955, later becoming Head Keeper and then Assistant Director (1955-1959). After this, Bob became the Director at Washington Park Zoo, Michigan City, Indiana (1959-1964) and then Director at Jackson Zoological Park, Jackson, Mississippi (1964-1975).

As a member of AZA, Bob was Chair of the Membership and Legislative Committees, first Treasurer, and one of the AZA Incorporators. He served on the Board (1971-1974) and as Vice President (1974-1975) before being chosen as the AZA Executive Director in May 1975. Bob remained in this position until July 1992 when he became the Chief Administrative Officer. In December 1996, Bob retired from AZA.

During Bob's tenure, the Association grew from 636 members to over 6,000 and from a $30,000 to a multi-million dollar budget, as well as a Conservation Endowment Fund exceeding $3 million. Some AZA highlights of Bob's tenure as Executive Director include:

AZA Office opens in Wheeling, West Virginia
Articles of Incorporation approved by State of West Virginia
Accreditation Procedures enacted for Institution members on voluntary basis

School for Professional Management Development first held in Wheeling, West Virginia
Outstanding Service Award established

Code of Professional Ethics adopted
Conservation Award, Education Award, First Breeding Certificate, Silver Propagator's Certificate & Gold Propagator's Certificate established

R. Marlin Perkins Award established

Accreditation becomes mandatory for new institutions

Species Survival Plans initiated
Conservation Office opens in Apple Valley, Minnesota

Zoological Park and Aquarium Fundamentals, 2nd edition, published
Zoo Biology begins publication

Conservation Endowment Fund established

Accreditation becomes mandatory for existing institutional members
First Long-Range Plan developed for the Association

School for Applied Zoo and Aquarium Biology established

Conservation Office moved to Conservation Center, Bethesda, Maryland

Studbook Training Program and Conservation Academy established
Annual Report on Conservation and Science begins annual publication
Second Long-Range Plan developed for the Association
Received AZA’s highest honor, the R. Marlin Perkins Award

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