"It's a Real Gift." Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo President Janet Agostini to Retire

Dec 18, 2019

Elephants play in the yard of their new preserve in late October.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER-FM 88.3

The president and CEO of Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo is looking back at her 13 years with the non-profit with pride as she prepares to retire next month.   Janet Agostini  says the organization was $2 million in debt when she took the position in 2006.  She says it was paid off 12 years early.

"We're very healthy financially.  We end most years each year with an operating surplus, which we're very proud of.  We have very healthy earned revenue streams from our gift shop and other sources, then a good fundraising effort.  We're in a strong position, and I think it's really important to maintain that in order to support a zoo of this caliber."

The Friends of the Zoo is the non-profit arm of the zoo that runs the business and education operations, including the gift shop and Jungle Cafe.  Those efforts have raised $30 million during her tenure, some of which goes toward new exhibits.  Onondaga County owns the zoo and employs much of its staff.  Agostini says the partnership is typical among zoos, and has worked very well.

Janet Agostini became president and CEO of Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in 2006. She's retiring Jan. 10.
Credit provided photo / Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo

"It's easy to make a case that, although this is an organization that is supported by taxpayer dollars, that it's deserving of private support.   The taxpayers couldn't fund the zoo in it's entirety to be the quality and caliber that we would like."

Agostini says the Friends of the zoo contributes more than $2 million to the zoo’s annual operating budget.  She says the county is currently working on a final design for the Animal Health Center, while the Friends will run the capital campaign.  The president and CEO says she’s glad to have had the opportunity to be part of something she feels so passionate about. 

"I've learned a tremendous amount about so many animals that I would never have been exposed to.  The Friends team, the animal care team, and the county staff...it's really just been a pleasure to be around them."

Agostini’s retirement will be effective January 10th.  The Friends board of directors is reviewing its next steps before announcing a national search for the next president and CEO.