Former Zoo Director Robert Bean Jr. Passes Away

CONTACT: Kyle Shepherd
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Former Zoo Director Robert (Bob) Bean Jr. passed away Oct. 21, 2016 at age 83. Robert Bean Jr. was the Louisville Zoo’s second director following Ivo Poglyan (1965 – 1974) and was at the helm from 1974 to 1988. He was born in Oak Park, IL in 1933 and had been living in the Chicago area since 2009.

Robert Bean Jr. was a third generation Zoo director. His grandfather Edward H. Bean and his father Robert Bean Sr. served as the first and second director of Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo respectively. Brookfield was where Robert Bean Jr. started his Zoo career as an animal keeper. He then went on to become a curator at the Birmingham Zoo as well the assistant director and then director of Busch Gardens before he took over leadership of the Louisville Zoo in 1974.

The Bean family is now in the fourth generation of animal care. Robert Bean Jr.’s daughter, Ellen, worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo Headquarters and their global field offices.

“Generations of the Bean family dedicated their professional lives to the Zoo calling,” said current Louisville Zoo director John Walczak. “Their collective passion for animal care runs deep and helped further the profession. Mr. Bean treated the Zoo staff like family and instilled in us the privilege we share working in the care and conservation of the precious beings at the Zoo. He cherished his staff and animals so dearly; every Christmas he would cook breakfast for the Zoo staff and then visit all the animals with his family. He will be missed.”

During Bean’s time as Director, the Louisville Zoo was accredited for the first time by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and was designated the “State Zoo of Kentucky.” It was also under his leadership that the Louisville Zoo built the MetaZoo education center, won a design award for its Siberian tiger exhibit and celebrated its first Halloween party.


The Louisville Zoo, a non-profit organization and state zoo of Kentucky, is dedicated to bettering the bond between people and our planet by providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors, and leadership in scientific research and conservation education. The Zoo is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).