The Saint Louis Zoo hosted its 22nd Annual Marlin Perkins Society Celebration at the Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis, Tuesday, November 12, 2013. Guests enjoyed the festive atmosphere featuring a global selection of food stations and casual seating to encourage mixing and mingling.

At the affair, Dr. Jeffrey Bonner, Dana Brown President and CEO, discussed the state of the Zoo. Subsequently, Peggy Ritter, Saint Louis Zoo Association Board President, and the Hon. James F. Conway, Chair, St. Louis Zoological Park Subdistrict Commission, recognized the following individuals and institutions: John Newby, the 2013 Saint Louis Zoo Conservation Award; Marion and Van-Lear Black, Individual Award; First Bank, Corporate Award; and  Clifford Willard Gaylord Foundation, Foundation Award.

The 2013 Saint Louis Zoo Conservation Award went to John Newby, Conservation Fellow, Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute, and Chief Executive Officer, Sahara Conservation Fund. This organization is considered the first and only committed to protecting the biodiversity of the desert region, its endangered species, their habitats and their communities. He also serves as a Smithsonian Institution Research Fellow and a Scientific Collaborator at the Institute Royal des Sciences Naturelles in Belgium.

A conservation biologist and arid lands ecologist, John Newby has spent more than 40 years working to create a sustainable future for the wildlife and people of the Sahara, forging partnerships between people, governments and the world zoo and scientific communities. Born in Lincolnshire, England, Newby served with the United Nation’s Volunteers in Chad and with conservation organizations in Niger before joining the World Wildlife Fund International’s Africa and Madagascar Program as its Director.

In 1999, he co-founded the Sahelo-Saharan Interest Group and in 2005 was named Chief Executive Officer of the Sahara Conservation Fund—an international non-government organization established to conserve the wildlife of the Sahara and bordering Sahelian grasslands.

The Zoo also presented three Saint Louis Zoo Awards to outstanding community leaders at its 22st annual Marlin Perkins Society Celebration:

Individual Award

The Saint Louis Zoo Individual Award went to Marion and Van-Lear Black, longtime Saint Louis Zoo supporters and leaders.  The Blacks have provided financial support to the Zoo since 1976.  The couple became Marlin Perkins Society members in 1993, and they also belong to the Heritage Society.  Their gift to an earlier Zoo campaign is recognized on the Emerson Children’s Zoo kiosk. In 2004, they “conserved” the giraffe and warthog figurines on the Mary Ann Lee Conservation Carousel.

The Blacks’ major gift to The Living Promise Campaign, an initiative to secure funding for various projects at the Zoo, is recognized with the Rookery Pathway at Sea Lion Sound.  The couple also co-chaired the Individual Gifts Phase of The Living Promise Campaign, which has secured more than $18.6 million in gifts and pledges. Marion Black served on the Saint Louis Zoo Foundation Board of Trustees from 1993 to 2004, and before that on the Zoo Friends Association Board Directors from 1973 to 1977.  Her long-time volunteer service has included membership on various committees for ZOOFARI, an event that the Blacks have continuously supported.

Corporate Award

First Bank received the Saint Louis Zoo Corporate Award. First Bank’s relationship with  the Zoo began in 2000 with a gift to create a special event for the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition. In 2004, First Bank became presenting sponsor of the Zooline Railroad and the Zoo’s exclusive ATM partner. In 2010, First Bank assumed presenting sponsor of the Zoo’s centennial celebration and exhibit, Zootennial, and in 2012, the bank became the First Bank Sea Lion Show sponsor.

First Bank is affiliated with the Marlin Perkins Society at the Steward’s Circle level and since 2006 has proven a strong participant in the ZOOFARI and A Zoo Ado fundraising events.

In addition, Michael Dierberg, Vice Chair, First Bank, Inc., has served on the Zoo Association Board of Directors. In 2008, Joe Ambrose, First Banks Regional President, joined the Zoo Association Board; he currently serves as Treasurer on the Executive Committee. Ambrose also served as the co-chair of A Zoo Ado in 2012.

Foundation Award

Clifford Willard Gaylord Foundation received the Saint Louis Zoo Foundation Award. The Clifford Willard Gaylord Foundation provided $362,000 in grants to the Zoo over the past 40 years. Since its first gift to the Zoo in 1971, the foundation has supported development of Big Cat Country, the Jungle of the Apes, the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium, the Bird House, the Edward K. Love Conservation Foundation Cypress Swamp exhibit, the Orthwein Animal Nutrition Center and Exploration Outpost. The foundation has provided grants to the Zoo’s earlier Gateway to the Animal World capital campaign and to the current The Living Promise Campaigns. The foundation’s namesake, the late Clifford Willard Gaylord, was a St. Louis industrialist and civic leader who supported many charities during his lifetime.

In 1991, the Marlin Perkins Society was formed to honor one of the Zoo’s most illustrious directors. The Society, initially formed with only 48 members, provides a way to recognize those individuals, corporations and foundations that generously support the Zoo.  In 2012, the Marlin Perkins Society membership exceeded 1,000 members.

Named America’s #1 Zoo by Zagat Survey and Parenting Magazine, the Saint Louis Zoo widely is recognized for its innovative approaches to animal management, wildlife conservation, research and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, it attracts about 3,000,000 visitors a year.