Recently retired from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium — where he spent more than 20 years as president and CEO — journalism alumnus Ted Beattie (BA, ’71, MA ’72) has held leadership positions at zoos across the U.S.
Beattie said he owes his long and successful career to Ohio State, where he was transformed and took initiative in the classroom, in The Lantern newsroom and on the golf course as a member of the golf team.
“After Ohio State when I was working with clients or when other folks were looking to advance in public relations, golf was a great tool,” he said. “You meet so many amazing people.”
“The work on The Lantern was very fascinating for me at that time,” he said. “It was brand new, and we had the opportunity to learn to write — and to write fast — to make contacts and conduct interviews. Those all gave me great satisfaction.”
Earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in zoology in ’71, Beattie stayed to complete his master’s in public relations in ’72.
His time at Ohio State was significantly impacted by journalism professor and PRSSA founder Walter Seifert, whom Beattie described as “really dynamite — a strong teacher and loved by a lot of people.”
For his master’s thesis, Beattie wrote a book about the history of public relations. He devoted six chapters to Seifert.
“Seifert and some of the other professors worked hard to get students out into the workplace,” Beattie said. “His work and support and guidance put all of us in jobs right out of school.”
After graduate school, Beattie enlisted in the army and served a tour of duty in Vietnam for a year. When he came home, he got married and found his first job at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden through a colleague who worked for the Cincinnati Reds.
“I told him if he ever heard of a good marketing job to let me know because I’d like to be in the Cincinnati area,” Beattie said. “Lo and behold, he put me in contact with one of the board members at the zoo. One thing led to another, and I became marketing director.”
After three years as marketing director for the zoo, Beattie assumed a leadership role at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, where he was responsible for marketing and business operations for seven years.
Beattie then moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he served as the first executive director of the Knoxville Zoo. His experience and accomplishments eventually led to Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, where he spent the final 21 years of his career as president and CEO.
“I never thought I’d end up back in Chicago, but it was a great opportunity to be a part of another nonprofit,” he said. “The aquarium was really growing.”
This growth provided a challenge, but Beattie saw it as an opportunity. He created a new strategic plan for the aquarium, streamlined operations, expanded Shedd’s endowment fund, strengthened the institution’s education initiatives and led a three-year capital fundraising campaign that raised more than $140 million.
But Beattie does not consider these to be his greatest accomplishments. He said what was most rewarding was working with others.
“The most satisfaction I get is watching fellow or junior employees grow into their responsibilities at the organization where they work,” Beattie said. “I’ve always tried to give every individual a fair shake. If they’ve got an idea, let’s hear it. Don’t push it aside because they aren’t a senior manager.”
Investing in his own employees was how Beattie expressed gratitude for those who paved the way for him.
“There are 14 individuals today who worked for me at some point who’ve now moved on to a bigger opportunity,” he said. “That’s really important to me; it means I’ve had a positive impact on their lives and their careers.”
Looking back on his education, Beattie said the fundamental courses and the mission of the School of Communication are largely unchanged.
“The professors who are part of the school — not only during my time — really care about the students; they care about the significance of being a good, strong journalist,” he said. “Very specific professors made a big difference in all of our lives.”
Beattie and his wife, Jill Beach Beattie, are enjoying retirement and split their time between Chicago and Florida. They golf and stay active with their new King Charles Cavalier, Annie.
Article by student Eleanor Kapcar.