Building out Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2010
Rea & Associates Nonprofit Executive Director of the Year Award

When people were worried about new changes at the Columbus Zoo, Gerald Borin eased the transitions of growth and expansion through his rational, steady leadership. Always embracing new opportunities to promote the mission of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Borin served as a key leader in developing partnerships and driving improvement for animal welfare and community education.

After joining the zoo’s staff as a general manager in 1985, Borin served as executive director from 1992 through 2008. In his 23 years of service, he led numerous efforts to build the needed public support to fund zoo expansion, conservation programs, and new and updated exhibits. During his tenure, the zoo expanded to eight times its original size and grew from 700,000 to 1.8 million visitors annually.

Borin’s leadership was key in securing the ongoing financial stability needed to grow the zoo from a local attraction to an international landmark. He played a key role in rallying voter support for public tax levies to fund zoo programs and growth. He also helped develop a new model for development by facilitating the creation of Zoombezi Bay LLC as a for-profit entity to generate income to support future expansion of the Columbus Zoo. This new model now serves as a great example of a successful public-private partnership and has helped the zoo bring in more money to support new projects.

Borin has made it a point to ensure the highest quality of care for zoo animals and quality experience for visitors. The zoo was almost completely rebuilt during Borin’s time at the helm, offering zoo visitors many new experiences and enhanced education by adding exhibits such as Discovery Reef, a 10,000 gallon saltwater aquarium, an African Forest exhibit, a Live Coral Reef exhibit, Polar Frontier and Manatee Coast. Borin has also worked to offer many learning opportunities for visitors, including educating children through camps, volunteer programs, and distance learning for kids and young adults.

The Columbus Zoo has become a leader in conservation under Borin’s tenure, thanks to the creation of the zoo’s Conservation and Collection Management Committee, which provides grant money to research, conservation programs and educational programs on a global scale. Because of this committee, the zoo now supports 70 conservation programs in 30 countries.

Additionally, Borin initiated the funding of staff travel and time to travel to work on conservation projects worldwide. This program has greatly increased morale of the staff, while supporting the mission of the zoo and building international partnerships with other nonprofits and conservation organizations.

How to reach: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, (800) 666-5397 or