Decatur man named as new CEO to lead renowned conservation institution

Local News

CHICAGO, Ill. (WCIA) — Michael Adkesson, of Decatur, has been named President and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society and Director of Brookfield Zoo on October 8, completing an intensive search for a successor to Dr. Stuart Strahl, who led the organization through dramatic change over the past 18 years.

Dr. Adkesson’s appointment will begin October 15.

“We are absolutely delighted Dr. Adkesson has accepted the leadership of the Society and Brookfield Zoo,” said Chair of the Board of Trustees Cherryl Thomas. “With his strong background in veterinary medicine, science, research and conservation and his experience in business and management, we are confident he will ensure Brookfield Zoo stays at the forefront of conservation, that it continues to be a beloved place in the hearts and minds of our visitors, and that he will take the organization forward into the future.”

“To be chosen as the President and CEO of a world-renowned institution of the significance of the Chicago Zoological Society is an absolute honor,” Dr. Adkesson said. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to lead this great organization and build upon the zoo’s rich history of success in animal care and conservation. As one of Chicagoland’s top cultural institutions, Brookfield Zoo touches the lives of millions of people every year, inspiring them to conserve and protect animals and habitats. I will remain steadfast in the Society’s commitment to providing the best in animal care and supporting its dedicated and passionate staff. I look forward to continuing to transform Brookfield Zoo through new animal habitats and memorable experiences that engage guests of all ages.”   

Officials said Dr. Adkesson started his career as a zookeeper at the Scovill Zoo in Decatur. He attended the University of Illinois and completed an internship in small animal medicine and surgery there, followed by a residency in zoological medicine at the Saint Louis Zoo and University of Missouri, prior to accepting an Associate Veterinarian position at the Brookfield Zoo in 2008. Dr. Adkesson was promoted to Vice President of Clinical Medicine in 2012, a role in which he oversaw the Society’s veterinary programs and hospital operations, before being recently appointed as President and CEO. In addition to overseeing the care of the animals at Brookfield Zoo, Dr. Adkesson has also spent more than a decade working in the field and overseeing conservation programs in Peru focused on Humboldt penguins, Peruvian fur seals and other coastal marine wildlife. He is an advocate for the importance of zoos in today’s society and believes zoos are uniquely positioned to inspire the public to care more about wildlife and nature.

“In Dr. Adkesson, we have found an outstanding and committed leader who is dedicated to the conservation of wildlife, who is an experienced manager, and who is widely respected by the staff and by professional colleagues for his work in the zoological field,” Dr. Strahl said. “Dr. Adkesson’s background, skills, training, and experience also ensure he will be the kind of leader who will succeed. I am pleased to be transitioning leadership of our beloved institution over to an established professional of his caliber and background who has already demonstrated his capacity and commitment.” 

Dr. Stuart Strahl has been the Chief Executive Officer and President of the Chicago Zoological Society and Director of Brookfield Zoo since 2003. During that time, he has led the Society’s pursuit of its mission to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people and communities with wildlife and nature on local, national and international levels.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.