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'Jungle Jack' Hanna to speak at autumn commencement

Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, will be the speaker for The Ohio State University’s autumn commencement, which takes place on Sunday, Dec. 16 in the Jerome Schottenstein Center. Approximately 2,800 students will receive degrees during the ceremony, which begins at 2 p.m.

Before becoming director emeritus, Hanna was director of the zoo from 1978-92. During his tenure, he took the zoo from one with outdated animal habitats and low attendance to a top destination for families and animal lovers. He is credited with transforming the zoo into one of the nation's best, and also with teaching millions of Americans about animal behavior.

"Jack Hanna is one of Central Ohio's greatest advocates, and all of us at Ohio State are honored to have him address our graduates and their families," said Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee. "Mr. Hanna's unbridled passion is legendary, both in his work at the Columbus Zoo and as a national animal expert. His dedication to conservation, education and public outreach has inspired generations of people, and made a real difference in our collective appreciation of wildlife."

Hanna may be best known for his media appearances with zoo animals, which began in 1983 when he appeared on Good Morning America following the birth of twin baby gorillas at the zoo. Hanna and his animals appear regularly on The Late Show with David Letterman and also have visited shows including Larry King Live, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Hollywood Squares, The Maury Show, Entertainment Tonight, FOX News, CNN and various other news programs (as a wildlife correspondent).

In 1993, Hanna began hosting Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures, a nationally syndicated television series. In 2007, he began a new TV series, Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild, which was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Series in 2008 and 2012. His newest series, Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown, debuted in September, 2011.

He visits Ohio State regularly to share stories of his adventures around the world and introduce students and the university community to animals.
Hanna took a leading role during the 2011 tragedy near Zanesville, where dozens of exotic animals were released by their owner and then killed by public safety officials. He participated in dozens of media interviews and explained the difficult but necessary decisions that officials made.

Hanna earned a B.A. from Muskingum College in 1969.

In addition, during the commencement ceremony, Ohio State will award the honorary Doctor of Public Service to Hanna; the Doctor of Arts to Vikki Heywood, executive director of the Royal Shakespeare Company; the Doctor of Humane Letters to Ray S. Jackendoff, the Seth Merrin Chair in Humanities and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University; and the honorary Doctor of Science to Tobin J. Marks, professor of chemistry at Northwestern University.

The university also will present Distinguished Service Awards to Tanny Crane, president and CEO of the Crane Group and one of Central Ohio's most prominent business leaders; and Jim Tootle, one of university’s greatest advocates.

About Jack Hanna
Animal expert Jungle Jack Hanna’s hands-on approach has won him widespread acclaim as Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, conservationist, author, television personality, and lifelong adventurer. Recognized around the country as America’s favorite zookeeper, Jack has made countless television appearances since 1983 on shows such as Good Morning America, The Late Show with David Letterman, Larry King Live, The Talk, The Maury Show, Fox News Programs, and CNN News Programs. He is the host of TV’s Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures, Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild, and Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown. For more information, visit www.jackhanna.com

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 575 species from around the globe. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and18-hole Safari Golf Club. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also operates the Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact; contributing more than $1 million annually to support over 70 conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating.

The Ohio State University
Founded in 1870, The Ohio State University is a world-class public research university and the leading comprehensive teaching and research institution in the state of Ohio. With more than 63,000 students (including 56,000 in Columbus), a major medical center, 14 colleges, 80 centers, and 175 majors, the university offers its students tremendous breadth and depth of opportunity in the liberal arts, the sciences, and the professions.