Dec 20

A Stellar Beginning for the Armitage Lecture Series

The Armitage Lecture Series, which launched in September of this year, has already become a shining star in Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s firmament by bringing world-renowned visionaries and internationally beloved entertainers to the zoo.

The free-to-the-public series was created by Dr. Jim Armitage in memory of his wife, Nancy Armitage, who was a devoted friend and patron of the Omaha Zoo with a lifelong passion for conservation. It kicked off with a presentation by award-winning photographer Joel Sartore, founder of The Photo Ark, a 25-year documentary series to raise awareness about endangered animals in order to save their species and habitats.

Because Armitage wanted the lecture series to inspire people of all ages toward conservation, the second event was geared toward children: the November 3 appearance by The Banana Slug String Band, a Northern California-based troupe that uses music to connect kids to messages about recycling, ocean health and other conservation issues.

Most recently, Dr. Cristián Samper, CEO and president of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) spoke to a full house on December 6. “Dr. Samper’s perspective is so wide-ranging,” says Dennis Pate, executive director and CEO of the zoo. “I knew his first-person observations of WCS projects all over the world would be interesting for people in Omaha.”

Pate says that Dr. Samper emphasized the key role zoos play – because of the size and engagement level of their audience -- in spreading the world about conservation issues, a point that was underscored by two things that happened in the Q&A part of the lecture. “There was one young woman who asked what she could do to help with conservation without a lot of resources at her disposal, and Dr. Samper suggested volunteering at the zoo, as well as making personal choices like avoiding single use plastics and using public transportation,” says Pate. “In another instance, someone asked about the status of clouded leopards and Dr. Samper actually referred the question to Dr. Cheryl Morris, our vice president of conservation, who answered it.”

Pate says he thought the latter incident was a nice nod to the fact that not one of us knows everything, but in working together, we may find we have the knowledge we need to protect the earth and its inhabitants. 

It’s an endeavor of which Nancy Armitage would have whole-heartedly approved. As Dr. Armitage wrote in his eulogy for his wife, “(Nancy believed) we have the ability to protect our natural resources.  However, it won’t just happen and you can’t wait for someone else to do it all – we all need to do our part.” 

We are looking forward to the ways in which the Armitage Lecture Series inspires us all to do our parts in the year to come. We’ll be announcing the new lineup of speakers soon, and hope you’ll be able to join us for future events