The Birmingham Zoo announced today that Dr. William Foster, D.V.M., president and chief executive officer of the Birmingham Zoo, will retire as CEO effective June 30, 2018. Foster will remain president and CEO of the Birmingham Zoo until June 30, at which time he will retire from the Zoo. After a nationwide search, the Birmingham Zoo’s board of directors selected Chris Pfefferkorn, currently Birmingham Zoo Senior Vice President, to assume the role of president and chief executive officer as of July 1, 2018.
Foster has 50 years of experience in the Zoo field and has been the chief executive officer and president of the Birmingham Zoo since 2004. Since that time, the Zoo has completed the Junior League of Birmingham Hugh-Kaul Children’s Zoo (2005), Trails of Africa (2011), Kiwanis Giraffe Encounter (2012), and the Barbara Ingalls Shook Black Bear Trail (2015). Today, with the generous support of public, private and foundation support, the Zoo has completed the Henley Park event lawn, is currently constructing a new Arrival Experience, and will soon begin on the Asian Passage, an innovative and exciting addition to the Zoo’s legacy.
In addition, Foster has led the Birmingham Zoo to record attendance when the Zoo was named the #1 tourist attraction in the state of Alabama by the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel and to record numbers with over 650,000 guests in attendance in 2016.
He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of South Florida and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Bachelor of Animal Science degrees from Tuskegee University.
Foster served on the Board for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums from 1995-2006, and as Board President from 2004-2005. He served on the accreditation commission, and currently serves as an inspector. He was awarded Inspector of the Year in 2016.
“I am grateful to have spent the past 14 years in Birmingham with this outstanding organization, and deeply honored to have had the opportunity to lead it to be the great establishment and community asset that it is today. I am very proud of what my Birmingham Zoo colleagues have been able to achieve here at the Zoo and around the world as we work toward our mission of inspiring passion to conserve the natural world,” said Foster. “I believe that 2018 is the right time for me to retire for a number of reasons. First, the Zoo has executed very well over the past few years, exceeding attendance goals, gaining reaccreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and successfully raising the funds for our $18 million Capital Campaign. As a result, the Zoo is operationally very sound and positioned for continued success. Secondly, the senior leadership team and I have laid out a vision for the Zoo through a three year strategic plan that will guide the Birmingham Zoo for many years to come, and this gives me great confidence about the Zoo’s future success. And third, Chris has been preparing for his new role as my successor since joining the Zoo in 2015 and 2018 is the right time for him to assume his place as the leader of the Zoo. I would like to thank the ‘Zoo Family’ including the Board, volunteers, staff, donors and community for all of their support and hard work over these 14 years.”
Pfefferkorn has served as senior vice president since July 2015, overseeing the Zoo’s Senior Staff, developing strategic short term and long term planning, and overseeing Birmingham Zoo’s conservation and research efforts. He came to the Birmingham Zoo with over 20 years of Zoological experience, including serving as the Deputy Director of Living Collections at Oregon Zoo, General Curator at Oregon Zoo, General Curator at Ellen Trout Zoo, Zookeeper/Behavior Management Coordinator at San Antonio Zoo and Zoological Curator and Zookeeper/Horticulturist at Glen Oak Zoo.
“I am deeply honored to have been selected to serve the Birmingham Zoo in this capacity. Dr. Foster has been a tremendous asset for not only the Zoo, but for the Birmingham Community. I have large shoes to fill,” said Pfefferkorn.