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Recognize & Celebrate businesses & people

Great Living Cincinnatians: Honorees

Celebrating the leadership, vision, tenacity, and love of community shared by the recipients of the Great Living Cincinnatian Award, presented annually by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber since 1967.

Cathryn Hosea Hilker

Awarded In 2010

Cathryn Hosea Hilker brings a clarity of reason and a strong passion to her work. These traits have taken the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden to uncharted heights as its influence has spanned continents.

Hilker is a life-long resident of Cincinnati and a 1954 graduate of the University of Cincinnati. She began her career as a teacher, but her attention soon turned to the preservation of the most remarkable cat, the cheetah. The Cincinnati Zoo has been dubbed “The Cheetah Capital of the World” because of its conservation efforts through education, public interpretation, and the captive cheetah breeding program.

She also is the founder and director of the zoo’s nationally-renowned Cat Ambassador Program. This program takes endangered cats into classrooms and other public forums to teach both children and adults the importance of preserving wildlife. For 30 years, she and her team have shared the world’s wild cats with groups throughout Cincinnati USA.

Hilker’s favorite cheetah was her first, Angel. Through her lifetime, Angel connected with more than one-million people. Hilker penned a book about her, A Cheetah Named Angel, and the cheetah is the namesake of the zoo’s cat conservation program, The Angel Fund.

The newest innovation is an on-site 100-yard running area where the cheetah can be seen by 300 visitors while doing what the cat does best – run. Last summer Sarah, the zoo’s eight-year-old female cheetah, became the world’s fastest land mammal.

Working for the Cincinnati Zoo for most of her adult years, Hilker knew that to have a lasting impact on the continued survival of the species, she had to support the work where the cheetah lived. The result was a partnership with the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) based in Namibia, Africa. It was in Namibia in 1995 that Hilker helped establish a permanent home base for the CCF.

Hilker’s life-long interest and involvement in Africa began as a young woman. Her first trip to Africa occurred in 1955, when she joined a road trip across the continent that started in what is now Zaire and landed one month later, in Mombasa, Kenya. On the way, she saw her first wild cheetah with Kilimanjaro as the backdrop.

Hilker has received numerous honors throughout her career, including the 1982 Cincinnati Enquirer’s Women of the Year, the Cincinnati Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation Award in 1995 and the honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Cincinnati in 2004.

Hilker continues to have the same zest for her work as she did decades ago. She said, “My career has been the realization of the best of possible worlds. I have been allowed to do something that I love, work with animals I admire and actually be able to make a positive difference for wildlife.”

Nominate a Great Living Cincinnatian

Recipients are selected from candidates by the Cincinnati Chamber’s senior council based on the following criteria: – Community service – Business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level – Leadership – Awareness of the needs of others – Distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization