Cathryn the Great

Last night Cathryn Hilker was honored with a “Great Living Cincinnatian” award!  Here are some words from Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard about Cathryn: 

Over 40 years ago a tall, lanky, Warren County Farm Girl walked into the Cincinnati Zoo, and the place hasn’t been the same ever since.


– 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, to sponsor what continues to this day as the Frisch’s Outreach Program, which takes 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 the cheetah population is stabilizing 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.


Tonight, Cathryn Hilker is being honored by the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce as a “Great Living Cincinnatian.” 


Something we have known all along.


This recent photo is of Cathryn training ‘Tommy T.,’ a young male cheetah in the Cat Ambassador Program.


Congratulations to our hero – a woman who never took no for an answer.




The event was a great tribute to Cathryn and her dedication not only to the Cincinnati Zoo but also to cheetah in the wild.

Cathryn’s name plate at her table.

Cathryn giving her acceptance speach.

Cathryn with her son Carl and her husband Hege.

Cora, Kathy, Cathryn, Alicia, Linda and Kathleen, cheetah trainers and fans.

Cathryn and her award.

Loud and proud purrs to the cheetah lady!!!