Maintaining a Connection
Nancy Schlegel, Eller MIS and Accounting ’85
President, Reid Park Zoological Society
By Liz Warren-Pederson
When Nancy Schlegel was growing up in Tucson, her mother was a docent at Reid Park Zoo. Neither of them expected that one day, Schlegel would head up the Reid Park Zoological Society, the non-profit organization that supports the Zoo.
“I would have been very surprised,” she said. After graduating from Catalina High School, Schlegel entered the UA, where she planned to study pharmacy. “Business was not on the radar,” she said. Although she enjoyed her science classes, things really clicked for her once she took an accounting course.
“You learn more about yourself when you go to school,” she pointed out. “The experience you get going through college is very important in shaping what you end up becoming.”
Schlegel took a part-time position in bookkeeping with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society while still taking classes, and upon graduation, joined a copier company as an office manager. But she didn’t forget the nonprofit sector: nine years later, she joined United Way, initially as an accountant. Over her 16 years with the organization, she moved up to CFO and got fundraising experience.
“I really like working for a mission, and especially with volunteers,” she said. “It gives you a purpose. And it’s very humbling to see terrific individuals give back by getting involved, sitting on committees, and more.”
Schlegel had always loved the Zoo, and joined the Zoological Society as president in 2009. “There’s always something exciting going on, and we’re never done growing and improving,” she said. “We’re coming off a blockbuster year with the opening of Expedition Tanzania, the new elephant experience, which is the culmination of a lot of hard work and community involvement.” The Reid Park Zoological Society is also working with the Reid Park Zoo on a master plan for the next ten years. “We’re exploring the possibility of a new health center and perhaps a hippo exhibit,” she said. “I can hardly contain myself, there’s so much excitement for our future.”
Throughout her career, Schlegel has maintained close ties to the UA. Her father was an adjunct professor in entomology, and her two daughters are studying at the UA now, but she has also been active in speaking to students, working on projects, and more. “My door is always open for students,” she said. “I think that maintaining that connection with UA is important, education is not done when you graduate, it’s a continual process.”