Soon Ted A. Beattie will hang up his president and CEO hat, shoulder his beloved golf clubs and retire after 22 years as only the third person at the helm in Shedd Aquarium’s 86-year history.
Ted’s first priority when he came to the aquarium in January 1994 was to make Shedd the friendliest place in town. If attendance is any indication, he succeeded. During his tenure, Shedd has been Chicago’s No. 1 cultural attraction 17 times.
As if 32,000 amazing animals, welcoming customer service and a commitment to making Shedd visits accessible to all weren’t enough, Ted kept guests coming back by offering them something new to experience on each visit, from up-close animal encounters to special exhibits to major additions and renovations. His vision for Shedd extended behind the scenes—and around the world—with initiatives for animal health and conservation research. It wasn’t easy to narrow it down, but here’s our list of Ted’s top 10 contributions that guests can experience at Shedd Aquarium.
1) As the first project in Ted’s ambitious long-term plan for Shedd, the signature Caribbean Reef habitat was rebuilt from its seafloor up for the animals and loaded with the latest technology for guests. At the same time, the surrounding rotunda was restored to its original Beaux Arts magnificence.
2) With input from the trustees, the staff, our guests and an architectural historian, Ted gave the go-ahead for a major new immersive exhibit within the original aquarium building. Amazon Rising daringly transformed two traditional galleries into an authentic floor-to-canopy flooded rain forest environment that transcended a “typical” aquarium exhibit by including terrestrial invertebrates, snakes, birds and even primates.
3) Ted oversaw the second major expansion in the aquarium’s history, Wild Reef, a two-story underground exhibition space that plunges guests into the coral-encrusted world of Philippines reefs and is home to the largest sharks ever seen at Shedd.
4) Faced with major maintenance on the beloved but aging Oceanarium, Ted instead called for a total “re-imagining” of the home of the beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters and penguins, with refurbished, expanded and new habitats and play-and-exhibit spaces designed especially for children.
5) With Lake Michigan as Shedd’s backyard, Ted strengthened our commitment to Great Lakes conservation through partnerships, forums, outreach and the renovation of the Local Waters gallery into At Home on the Great Lakes, featuring a touch pool for the region’s largest fish species, lake sturgeons, as a centerpiece.
6) Ted took Shedd exhibits outdoors for the first time with Stingray Touch, a warm-weather opportunity for guests to connect with schools of gentle rays that has become one of the most popular areas at the aquarium.
7) Ted changed the face of Shedd’s special exhibits by highlighting live animals for the first time. These temporary installations have enabled Shedd to expand its collection outside of its permanent exhibits. After the initial success of White Alligator, special exhibits focused on diversity within specific taxonomic groups: frogs, seahorses and their relatives, sea stars, crabs, lizards, sea jellies and the current Amphibians, showcasing a global array of frogs, salamanders and rarely seen caecilians.
8) With an animal collection that expanded to 1,500 species during his term, Ted recognized the need for an on-site full-service animal hospital and laboratory facility, realized in the A. Watson Armour III Center for Aquatic Animal Health and Welfare behind the scenes.
9) Ted also solidified Shedd’s conservation leadership by establishing the Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research, whose staff of scientists are currently pursuing field research programs in the Great Lakes and abroad. Guests can learn more about Shedd’s efforts to conserve and save species throughout the aquarium’s exhibits, shows and experiences.
10) Ted strongly believes that conservation begins at home. As Shedd’s efforts at sustainable operating practices expanded, they were incorporated into a visionary Master Energy Road Map designed to cut the aquarium’s energy consumption in half by 2020. A field of solar panels on the roof is the most visible evidence of efforts that have already slashed resource use throughout the building.