Iliana Corfias / Lantern photographer
Along with thousands of Ohio State graduates, a cheetah, a spotted leopard, a sloth and a “big reptile” might be in attendance at Autumn Commencement.
Jack Hanna, often called America’s favorite zookeeper, is scheduled to speak at Ohio State University’s Autumn Commencement in December.
“It’s an honor, obviously, to speak to one of the finest universities in the country,” Hanna told The Lantern.
Hanna said he plans to speak about how he lives his dream.
“There is no reason why everyone I talk to can’t live theirs,” he said.
Hanna said he will speak to graduates about his background and how he was able to get to where he is today.
“I dreamed to be a zoo keeper,” Hanna said. To be successful “you work hard in life and you love what you do.”
Hanna said he will share lessons his father taught him about “hard work and enthusiasm,” and talk about his humble upbringing in Tennessee before attending Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio.
Hanna was named director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in 1978. He began his media career in 1983 with an appearance on “Good Morning America.” In 1992, Hanna transferred from director to his current position as director emeritus at the Columbus Zoo.
Hanna has hosted multiple television shows, beginning with “Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures” in 1993. “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild” was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Series in 2008 and 2012. Hanna’s current and newest series, “Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown,” began running in September 2011.
Media appearances and his work in entertainment help his efforts to spread wildlife conservation, Hanna said.
“I spread conservation in a way that people understand, and in a fun way,” he said.
Hanna’s passionate work at the Columbus Zoo is “legendary,” said OSU President E. Gordon Gee in a press release.
“His dedication to conservation, education and public outreach has inspired generations of people, and made a real difference in our collective appreciation of wildlife,” Gee said.
About 2,800 students will receive degrees at Autumn Commencement, which begins at 2 p.m. on Dec. 16,in the Schottenstein Center.
Hanna was chosen to speak at commencement after being nominated by students, said Amy Murray, OSU’s assistant director of Media and Public Relations.
Students were asked to suggest commencement speakers through an online suggestion form, Murray said.
Brandon Mason, a fifth-year in mechanical engineering, will be graduating in December, and said he is excited to see what Hanna will say at commencement.
“I’m curious to see what he’s going to say,” Mason said. “It adds a different spin on it than something you would expect, just because he’s not a politician or something.”
Mason said he thinks Hanna will be more engaging than some of the past speakers because of his experience in media and the entertainment industry.
“I’m not going to discredit him just because he works with animals all the time,” Mason said.
Hanna said he will bring animals with him to commencement to show people what he does.
“I’ll bring a buckeye too,” Hanna said.