Leaving a Legacy

Members of the Lincoln Park Zoo Heritage Society enjoy an inside look at conservation and care, including updates on rhino recovery from Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., director of the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology.

Heritage Society Members Invest in the Zoo's Future

The catered lunch at the end of the conference table offers a powerful distraction, but Endocrinologist Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., holds the center of attention at this midday gathering. The director of the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology has come to share her work with six members of Lincoln Park Zoo’s Heritage Society. By laying out tales of black-footed ferret “boot camp” and black rhinoceros pregnancy tests, she connects these key supporters with some of the work their contributions make possible.

Composed of people who’ve let the zoo know of their intention to make a gift through their estate, the Heritage Society comprises some of the zoo’s strongest supporters. “We’re so grateful to members of the society,” says Director of Planned Giving Marilyn Schaffer. “They’ve created a legacy for the zoo in their estate plans, and we appreciate their investment in our future.”

The gathered donors are eager to discuss their support for the zoo. Most have zoo memories that stretch back to their childhoods. Kathe Gross says that after spending several decades as a microbiologist out of state, she made her plans to come back to Chicago, where she stipulated she would have to be close to the zoo. “I lived in New York for 45 years; I came back to the zoo,” she says.

Gross was inspired to join the Heritage Society by a desire to support the zoo’s wide-ranging conservation and science programs. Others cite their commitment to keeping the zoo free and open to all as their main motivator to give. “It takes money to accomplish that,” says Dick Foster. “Maybe in tough times a place like this is even more important.”

After offering their thoughts on giving, the group transfers their attention to their lunches and Santymire’s energetic talk. The endocrinologist outlines how the non-invasive analysis of hormones collected from feces helps zoo scientists predict pregnancies, evaluate stress levels and gauge the success of reintroduction and recovery efforts.

The presentation ends with a tour of Santymire’s lab and a visit to the Harris Family Foundation Black Rhinoceros Exhibit. There the guests see firsthand how the zoo’s rhinos made possible new techniques to help their wild cousins in South Africa. But they also see the impact their gifts will have, both in the wildlife being conserved and the happy people they pass on their walk, visitors enjoying a zoo that will continue to be free and open to all.


Want to learn more about making a planned gift to Lincoln Park Zoo? Visit our Planned Giving website or contact Director of Planned Giving Marilyn Schaffer at 312-742-2167 or mschaffer@lpzoo.org.


by James Seidler. Originally printed in Fall 2010 Lincoln Park Zoo magazine