Minnesota Zoo Volunteer Profile: Jude Dean

posted in: Profile | 0

What brought you to the Minnesota Zoo to volunteer?

I have loved animals since I was a child, so when I read about the Minnesota Zoo, I wanted to be involved in some way – but I did not qualify to work there. I visited as soon as the Zoo opened. It was there that I met Phoebe Hanson, who was busily interacting with the visitors. When she told me about the volunteer program, I couldn’t wait to sign up. I enrolled in the next class in September of 1978, and consider it one of the best things I have done for myself.

What was your degree/major in college?

Although I attended a few years of college, I never found the time to finish. I consider working at the Zoo an ongoing learning experience.

What is your “day job”? How did the skills from your job translate to your volunteer work? Did your volunteer duties bring new skills back to your job?

I am currently employed full-time in an administrative position, although through the years I have worked in many customer service roles — positions that have proved beneficial in my role as a Zoo volunteer. I have learned through volunteering at the Zoo that flexibility and a positive attitude are attributes that any employer appreciates.

What is your favorite animal or exhibit (current or former)?

Marine mammals and sealife have always fascinated me, with any type of feline coming in a close second. But, to be diplomatic, each area of the Zoo has something special to offer.

Is there anything that stands out as a highlight of your time as a volunteer (so far)?

There are so many wonderful experiences I have had over the years, but topping the list has to be seeing the birth of two dolphin calves, and interacting with the belugas. How can you not be moved when holding in your hands the flukes of a whale? I am very interested in medicine, so I also loved being able to observe a procedure on an adult tiger; and I would be remiss if I didn’t include the opportunity to hold a baby tiger.

Do you have any other hobbies or interests?

Some of my many interests are nature, gardening, the arts, cooking (and eating, especially chocolate), word puzzles, and antiques. One of my passions is teaching, and I think that’s why the Zoo is so appealing to me — because it allows me to share my knowledge and love of nature, hopefully making a difference for the future of our planet and all its inhabitants.

Tell us about your family.

I am very fortunate to come from a large, loving family (nine siblings). It’s never dull or quiet when we get together. I share my house with two wonderful cats, Dita and Buddy. I have spent the last ten years grooming my property to attract wildlife and I am enjoying the results.

Anything else you would like to share?

I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a Zoo volunteer. I feel I have gotten as much out of it as I have put into it. I have made many wonderful friends over the years and have talked to people from all over the world. It never gets old seeing guests’ eyes light up when they discover something about the world around them and take that experience home with them to share with their friends. That’s what it’s all about.

Leave a Reply