Ted Beattie, led Shedd Aquarium through a period of growth, dies at age 77 – Chicago Tribune newstrendslive

Ted Beattie was president and CEO of the Shedd Aquarium for 22 years, a period of significant change that saw the opening of six permanent exhibits, including the addition of Wild Reef, and the modernization of the Abbott Oceanarium marine mammal pavilion.

“Very few leaders have had the impact on their profession and city as Ted did. As CEO, he positioned Shedd Aquarium on the national and international stage, strengthening Chicago’s emerging position as a global powerhouse,” said Florida Aquarium President and CEO Roger Germann, a former colleague of Beattie’s at the Shedd. “During his tenure, Shedd Aquarium was recognized as one of the most successful aquariums in the world, and remained the top cultural attraction in Chicago.”

Beattie, 77, died of pneumonia on Jan. 6 at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida, said his son, Sean. He had been a resident of Osprey, Florida, and previously had lived in Lincolnshire.

Born in Salem, Ohio, Beattie attended Ohio State University on a golf scholarship. He served in the Army’s information branch and in a propaganda unit in the Army before finishing his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio State in 1971. The following year, he earned a master’s degree in public relations.

Beattie was working in marketing and public relations in Ohio when he heard through a friend that the Cincinnati Zoo was seeking a marketing director. Beattie had a love for animals — his college minor was in zoology — and was hired to be the Cincinnati Zoo’s marketing director.

The match was a good one. Beattie devised a variety of marketing ideas, and the results were impressive — he helped increase the zoo’s annual attendance in two years from 680,000 to 965,000.

“He literally brought the zoo world into the 20th century,” Jack Hanna, the director emeritus of the Cincinnati Zoo, told the Tribune in 1997. “He brought tremendous forward thinking and innovative ideas into the industry at a critical time.”

Beattie’s success drew attention, and he was lured to the Chicago area by the Brookfield Zoo in 1981. During six years at the zoo, Beattie built a new corporate sponsorship program and helped increase memberships and merchandising sales threefold.

Beattie left the Brookfield Zoo in 1987 to become executive director at the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee, then was the CEO of the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas from 1992 until 1994.

In 1994, Beattie was hired to be the Shedd’s third president and CEO. During his tenure, the Shedd perennially ranked as Chicago’s No. 1 or No. 2 paid attraction among zoos and museums. Among the projects he oversaw were the $47 million Wild Reef area and a $79 million rehab of the Abbott Oceanarium.

“He was really hardworking, but he got everything by building a consensus — that’s how he would do that,” said former Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner, a former Shedd Aquarium board chair. “That’s how he was able to build the Shedd to its size today.”

Beattie told the Tribune in 2015 that he wanted the Shedd “to be the friendliest place in town. Out of that statement we would manage our programs.”

Beattie played a role in the transformation of the museum campus that contains the Shedd, the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum of Natural History, and he also focused on developing talent at the aquarium.

Retired Lincoln Park Zoo CEO Kevin Bell, a longtime friend, recalled Beattie’s laserlike focus on developing leaders.

“The thing Ted was most proud of in terms of his accomplishments was his work with leadership,” Bell said. “Talk to most people around our industry, and those are the words that are going to come up.”

Fahner noted the numerous leaders of zoos and aquariums across the U.S. who once had worked for Beattie. “He’s got like 11 or 12 people (who worked for him) who are just kind of a diaspora all around the country,” Fahner said. “They were all disciples of Ted’s.”

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Outside of work, Beattie chaired Ohio State’s alumni association’s board of directors and was appointed in 2001 by President George W. Bush to serve on the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.

Beattie announced in 2015 that he would retire from the Shedd once a successor was found, and he stepped down the following year.

“I feel really good about where the aquarium is today — and with lots of potential for the future,” he told the Tribune in 2015.

A first marriage to Kathleen Shaw Beattie ended in divorce. Beattie’s second wife, Penelope, died in 2012. In addition to his son, Beattie is survived by his third wife, Jill; two daughters, Lauralyn Lee and Kimberly Saunders; a sister, Deborah; and five grandchildren.

A service was held.

Bob Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.

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