The Saint Louis Zoo has named Dwight Scott its next Dana Brown President & CEO, succeeding Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., who will retire from that position at the end of the year after leading the organization for nearly two decades.
Scott will assume the position on January 3, 2022. Dr. Bonner will continue to serve in an advisory role for the Zoo.
“We conducted an extremely thorough international search to find the next great leader for the Saint Louis Zoo,” said Cynthia J. Brinkley, Chair, St. Louis Zoological Park Subdistrict Commission.
In fall 2020, a search committee comprised of St. Louis Zoological Park Subdistrict Commissioners, members of the Saint Louis Zoo Association Board of Directors, and St. Louis community leaders was formed to select the next Dana Brown President & CEO. Winthrop B. Reed, III, Immediate Past Chair, St. Louis Zoological Park Subdistrict Commission, led the search committee. The committee engaged Shelli Herman & Associates, Inc. as the lead executive search firm to help guide the committee through the process and the international search. The search committee also was supported by a committee of former Saint Louis Zoo Association Presidents and St. Louis Zoological Park Subdistrict Commission Chairpersons.
Together, the search firm and the committee received and reviewed applications over the spring and conducted preliminary interviews during the summer months. The search committee narrowed the list of candidates down to a tremendous group of finalists and the search committee, former Saint Louis Zoo Association Presidents, former St. Louis Zoological Park Subdistrict Commission Chairpersons, and the Zoo’s Strategic Operations Team met with the finalists in September.
“Dwight Scott rose to the very top of our list,” said Brinkley. “Not only does he bring nearly 30 years of zoo experience to his new role, but he also brings his determined and contagious passion for wildlife conservation and believes that diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion programs are critical to organizational and community development.”
Since December 2013, Scott has been the Executive Director of San Diego Zoo. In that role, he has been responsible for all aspects of operating the San Diego Zoo. He has overseen the daily operations of all departments related to the 100-acre facility, including admissions, transportation, education, food service, retail, facilities, wildlife care, horticulture, and special events.
Scott brings diverse experience with accredited zoos to his position. He started his zoo career in 1994 as an Animal Keeper at Kansas City Zoological Gardens. He then became part of the animal management team that helped build and create Disney’s Animal Kingdom. After his time at Disney, Dwight went to Oklahoma City Zoological Park and Botanical Garden, where he went from Assistant Curator of Mammals to Curator of Mammals to Director of Animal Management. Dwight then went to Tulsa Zoo & Living Museum where he was Assistant Director. He then went back to Oklahoma to become their Executive Director & CEO. After Oklahoma, Dwight went to San Diego Zoo to become their Executive Director.
Scott was born and raised in Chillicothe, Missouri, which is approximately 230 miles northwest of St. Louis and 90 miles northeast of Kansas City.
“Growing up in Missouri, I was inspired by visits to the Saint Louis Zoo,” said Scott. “I look forward to taking the Saint Louis Zoo to new heights just as Dr. Bonner, Charlie Hoessle, Marlin Perkins, George Vierheller and all the past leaders of this world-class organization have done over the years. The Saint Louis Zoo has and always will lead the way in conserving animals and their habitats through animal management, research, recreation and educational programs. I can’t wait to get started.”
Scott recognizes the important role that urban zoos play in ensuring that wildlife and nature are accessible to all children. At San Diego Zoo, he led the effort to improve and expand animal habitats with an eye toward building an appreciation for wildlife in all guests while also addressing the needs of Species Survival Plan® programs managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Scott also has taken a leadership role in the fight against wildlife trafficking, working with the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance on behalf of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.
“Dwight has been an incredible member of our family for eight years, and while our hearts are heavy, we couldn’t be more excited for him as he embarks on this next step in his career,” said Paul Baribault, President and Chief Executive Officer, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “When I started at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, I was told that there was one dream job that Dwight might ever leave San Diego Zoo for, and this is it. We are so happy for him to return to his roots, where he can be near family, and lead the zoo that he grew up with.”
Scott received his Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts with a concentration in anthropology from the University of Missouri, Kansas City. In 2019, he received the Alumnus of the Year Award from the university’s Alumni Association. He previously chaired the AZA Board of Ethics, the AZA Wildlife Conservation Management Committee, and chaired the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International Board of Directors. He currently is on the board of directors of the AZA and the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife.
Scott and his wife, Kathy, a native of St. Louis, have two daughters.