In the 1960s Cathryn Hilker founded the Zoo’s 1st outreach program to schools, using films and illustrations in her presentations.
In the early 1970s, together with Barry Wakeman, she helped establish the Cincinnati Zoo Education Department, and in 1976 she convinced Jack Maier, the owner of Frisch’s Restaurants at the time, to sponsor the legendary Frisch’s Outreach Program, which took wild animals into the classrooms of tens of thousands of students every year.
In 1980 Cathryn began the work for which she will always be known, the Cincinnati Zoo Cat Ambassador Program. Beginning with ‘Scruf’ the African Lion, ‘Carrie’ the Cougar, and her beloved ‘Angel’ the Cheetah, Cathryn has put the Cincinnati Zoo on the map as a leader in wild cat education and conservation.
In 1992, following the death of Angel, Cathryn established The Angel Fund, through which she and the supporters of the Cincinnati Zoo continue to partner in effective ways to protect wild cheetahs and their habitat in southern and eastern Africa. Once in drastic decline, today there are numerous efforts working to stabilize their numbers and there is hope for this fastest of animals a century from now thanks to Cathryn’s work and the support of The Angel Fund.