- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 11, 2006

Anyone can be a Friend of the National Zoo, but only Robert J. Lamb can be the No. 1 friend.

Mr. Lamb last Monday was named executive director of FONZ, the nonprofit organization that supports the National Zoological Park, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution.

“I want to make sure the zoo is a must-see destination for all the visitors to the nation’s capital and a place of interest and excitement for all our residents,” he said.

Mr. Lamb will oversee 300 full-time employees and a budget of nearly $8 million a year, providing services for the zoo’s 2 million annual visitors.

Mr. Lamb said he plans to work with the zoo to build a strong financial base, improve conservation efforts, maintain a highly qualified staff and build state-of-the-art facilities for all the animals.

He also plans to improve the quality of education the zoo provides for children, many of whom have what he calls a “nature deficit disorder.”

“People have little experience with nature,” he said, something a trip to the zoo can help correct.

Mr. Lamb comes from the Department of the Interior, where he served in many capacities under seven secretaries since 1977, most recently as senior adviser for management and collaborative action.

His experience includes financial management and development of public and private partnerships, specifically to protect natural resources and encourage conservation.

“I saw a complete nexus between the work I had done at the Interior and the work I hope to do at the zoo and with the association,” he said.

Reading the National Zoo’s 10-year plan during the interview process, he said, he was drawn to the similarity between the job and the skills he attained at Interior. “When I looked at the pathway, I thought — these are the areas I have experience in.”

The plan outlines a course that will try to make the National Zoo the world’s finest zoological institution by 2016.

“We are tremendously excited both about the hiring of Mr. Lamb and about the future of the zoo,” said Robyn Kravit, the president of the board of directors for FONZ. “We felt because of his commitment to conservation, he would be a natural choice to lead this organization.”

Mr. Lamb will take over in July from James Schroeder, who was deputy executive director for 16 years before becoming executive director last year. Mr. Schroeder will stay on as an adviser to Mr. Lamb.

The Friends of the National Zoo funds improvements to exhibits, organizes volunteer activities, operates the concessions and gift stores, distributes educational materials, including its bimonthly magazine Zoogoer, and provides grants for scientific research.

Mr. Lamb received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Dayton, in Ohio, a master’s degree in liberal arts from Johns Hopkins University, and a master’s degree in business administration from George Washington University.

Mr. Lamb, 61, lives in Bethesda with his wife of 33 years, Amy, who is a fine-arts photographer, and a poodle named Bella. He has two grown children and one grandchild.

— Marie Tyler

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