Potawatomi Zoological Society

Potawatomi Zoo Directors

Craig Mccowan - 1971-1984
John Chapo - 1984-1985
Phillip Frost - 1985-1989
Johnny Martinez - 1990-1997
Vickie Roth - 1997-2000
Clarence Wright - 2001-2002
Greg Bockheim - 2003-2006
Terry Derosa - 2007-2011

History Of The Potawatomi Zoological Society

In 1970 progress toward the formation of a Zoological Society was in full swing with the help of the Jayshe’s. Committees were formed to create the charter, by-laws, and structure/mission, of the organization. By July 1971 this was accomplished. The original name of the society was the St. Joseph Valley Friends of the Zoo. Ernest Litweiler was the first Board President. Mr. Litweiler was a biology teacher at Adams High School.

The St. Joseph Valley Friends of the Zoo became an integral part of the renovations that took place in the mid 70'’ that changed the zoo from a menagerie/collection of animals into a modern zoo with larger spaces for animals.

The Society hired Zooplan Associates of Wichita, Kansas to develop a master plan in 1973. IN 1977 the passage of a $1.5 million bond issue allowed for a much needed renovation and expansion of the zoo. In 1979 the Education center was built and the first phase of the master plan was completed which included chimpanzee island, the lion and bear grottos, and the Eurasian and African wild yards.

In August of 1985 the name of the Society was changed to the Potawatomi Zoological Society, Inc. The Zoo Society helped to fund a new Zoo Farm that was completed in 1988.

In 1994 after 20 years of the Society managing the Gift Shop and Zoo Concessions, the management of these areas was shifted to the Zoo, allowing the revenues generated from these facilities to be used for the operational cost of the zoo.

Potawatomi Zoological Society projects have included the Chimpanzee Exhibit (1995), Asian Carnivores (1998), and Alligator (1999).

The Society’s next project was the Veterinary Hospital, which was completed in May of 2002 at a cost of $1.1 million.

In 2004, the Zoo Society’s largest project in over 20 years, the Zoo Train opened with great popularity during the annual Zoo-Boo (Halloween) event. The Zoo Train continues to fund new exhibits and renovate existing exhibits through ticket purchase.

The Zoo Society continues to work with the zoo to fund exhibits, enrich the lives of the animals and provide funding to educate zoo staff. The society, which hired Marcy Dean in 2006, as the Society Director, is undergoing major fund development and marketing planning for 2009 and beyond. This includes the addition of a adopt-an-animal program, the re-introduction of the bricks sale, and future plans for planned giving and an endowment.