For Release: July 29, 2005
Linda St. Thomas (202) 357-2627, ext. 108
Peper Long (202) 633-3082
Smithsonian Names John Berry as New Director for the National Zoological Park
John Berry, currently Executive Director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, has been named Director of the National Zoological Park, effective Oct. 1. As Director of the National Zoo, Berry will oversee both the 163-acre facility in Rock Creek Park and the 3,200-acre Conservation Research Center in Front Royal, Va. He will report directly to Dr. David Evans, Under Secretary for Science, who has been serving as Interim Director of the Zoo since January.
Established in 1889, the Zoo employs about 300 people who care for 2,400 animals representing many rare and endangered species. Its mission is to celebrate, study and protect the diversity of animals and their habitats. The birth of a giant panda this summer is an excellent example of one of the Zoo’s most successful research and conservation programs—reproductive biology.
Berry will be responsible for the public facility, which welcomes nearly 2 million visitors a year, and the research program, which includes groundbreaking work in conservation biology. Also under his purview are the fundraising and education programs coordinated by the Zoo’s membership organization (Friends of the National Zoo) and the completion of Asia Trail, an extensive renovation project begun in 2004. The federal appropriation for the Zoo in fiscal year 2005 was $17 million, and Congress authorized an additional $21.4 million for extensive renovation, which included the Asia Trail project.
“With his extensive management, public policy and wildlife conservation experience, John Berry is eminently qualified to direct the National Zoo,” said Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small. “We’re delighted to welcome him back to the Smithsonian, and we’re fortunate to have such a person in this important position as the Zoo moves forward.”
As Executive Director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a Congressionally chartered non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the nation’s wildlife resources, Berry managed an annual operating budget of $9.5 million and a 75-member staff in six regional centers. During his five-year tenure (2000-present), Berry overhauled the foundation’s financial systems and developed a strategic plan for the organization. In the past 20 years, the foundation has distributed more than $300 million in grants for the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants. He reported to a 25-member board of directors appointed by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“John Berry brings a wealth of relevant experience to a complex job in all ways, including education, research and species conservation.” said Dr. George Rabb, former Director of the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and member of the search committee. “John recognizes the excellent qualities of the National Zoo staff and he will undertake to lead them as a truly coherent team dedicated to animal care and the visiting public. From my background of leading a large Zoo for 27 years, I am pleased with the outcome of this long search for a well-rounded professional.”
Prior to joining the Wildlife Foundation, Berry, 46, served as Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the Interior Department for three years (1997-2001), a position that required Senate confirmation. During his tenure, the agency’s budget increased from $7 billion to $10 billion, and he developed a presidential initiative known as the “Lands Legacy.”
In commenting on Berry’s credentials, Evans said, “Having served in effect as Chief Operating Officer of the Interior department with its 66,000 employees, John brings obvious management skills to the National Zoo. In addition, he comes with strong experience in animal conservation issues from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. This combination of skills will serve him well as he continues the progress the Zoo has made in the past few years.”
Dr. Russell Greenberg, Director of the Migratory Bird Center located at the National Zoo, served on the search committee to find the new Director. “John obviously has great credentials for wildlife conservation,” Greenberg said. “What also came across strongly in interviews was his enthusiasm for science. He clearly understands the leadership role that the National Zoo plays in the areas of research and science education.”
This is not the first time Berry has worked at the Smithsonian. He was Director of government relations and a Senior Policy Advisor from 1995 to 1997, reporting to Smithsonian Secretary I. Michael Heyman and Under Secretary Constance Berry Newman. During that time, Berry helped secure federal funds for the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Air and Space Museum’s Hazy Center. He left to become Assistant Secretary at the Interior Department.
From 1985 until 1994, Berry served as Legislative Director
for Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and as Associate Staff
for the House Appropriations Committee during those
“I am deeply honored to become a part of the team of incredible and passionate professionals who make this such a great Zoo,” said Berry, a native Washingtonian and frequent Zoo visitor. “I look forward to meeting the Zoo staff and working with everyone in the Washington area and beyond who care about this Zoo. Together, we can make the National Zoo the pride and joy of all Americans.”
Berry, who lives in northwest Washington, earned a bachelor’s degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland in 1980 and a master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse University in 1981.
Berry succeeds Lucy Spelman, former Director of the National Zoological Park, who resigned at the end of 2004.
John Berry was recommended by a search committee that began work last summer and was assisted by Korn Ferry International. The committee members include Chairman Evans; Smithsonian Deputy Secretary Sheila Burke; Dr. Russell Greenberg, Director of the Migratory Bird Center located at the National Zoo; Mark Handwerger, FONZ Board President; Dr. Jackie Ogden, Director of animal programs at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida; Dr. George Rabb, former President of the Chicago Zoological Society and former Director of the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago; Franchon Smithson, Chairman of the Zoo’s advisory board; Mary Tanner, Deputy Director of the Zoo; and William Xanten, General Curator at the Zoo.
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