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Perpetuating the family legacy

SALT LAKE CITY — Wherever James Hogle goes in Utah, the reaction to his name is nearly always the same. He might be at the grocery store when the cashier catches a glimpse of his signature. “Oh, do you work at the zoo?” When he’s feeling playful, Hogle might reply, “Yes, I clean the cages.”

For 42 years, Hogle has served on the board of directors of the zoo that bears his family’s name and resides on donated family property. During many of those years, he was chairman of the board for Hogle Zoo. Now 79, he is chairman emeritus.

“I guess it’s in my DNA,” says Hogle,

It’s no stretch to say the Hogle family has had a profound influence on the zoo nearly every step of the way since it moved to its current location 85 years ago. Family introductions are in order, but they’re tricky because most of them bear the same name. James A. Hogle started the family’s involvement with the zoo in 1931. His son, James E., raised that involvement to another level while overhauling operation of the zoo. He passed the baton to his son, James E. Jr. (let’s call him Jim to save confusion), who is still serving the zoo in his emeritus status and passing the baton his son Patrick, who also serves on the board.

Ask Jim if he feels an obligation to watch over the zoo, given the family’s history with it, he says: “Yes, I do. I guess that’s why I have a son on the board, and his interest is as keen as mine.”

Before he retired, Jim was a stockbroker. He moved to New York City for several years but returned to Salt Lake City in his mid-30s to work in the family brokerage business in 1972. He joined Hogle Zoo’s board of directors two years later and has been there ever since.

Working alongside his father in the family business provided a glimpse into the world of voluntarism. James E. served on so many committees throughout the community that one businessman told him, “You spend more time on community affairs and philanthropy than your business.”

“He believed he had to give something back, and he loved Salt Lake City as do I,” says Jim. Like his father, Jim has served various committees, boards and philanthropic efforts in the community, including his current work for the House of Hope, a recovery program for drug-addicted single mothers.

Jim will be formally honored for such service. The Utah Nonprofits Association will present its Philanthropic Leadership Award to him Nov. 17.

He hopes future generations of his family will continue the work in behalf of the zoo. “When you’re associated with an institution, you’ve got to make sure it is as good as it can be for the community in which you live,” he says.

It’s difficult to imagine where the zoo would be if not for the influence of the Hogles. The zoo originally was housed on six acres in Liberty Park, but the setting proved problematic. For one thing, it was tormented by an escape artist named Princess Alice, an enormous African elephant who came to the zoo in 1916. She escaped several times and wandered the city, returning with odds and ends (clothing, clothes lines, wire fencing, etc) on her back. By 1931, residents were fed up with her repeated escapes and escapades and the destruction she left in her wake.

Seeing that the zoo was inadequate, Hogle’s grandfather, James A. Hogle, a stockbroker and lifelong philanthropist, offered to donate 42 acres of family property in the mouth of Emigration Canyon to the city for use as a zoo.

That wasn’t the end of the zoo’s problems. During the next two decades, the zoo, which continued to be operated by the city, became rundown.

James A. died in 1955, but by then his son and namesake, James E., had taken an interest in the zoo and served on its board of directors.

“The zoo had fallen into rough shape,” says Jim of his father. “It was not maintained. There were no fundraising efforts. My father was embarrassed to have his name on it.”

In his travels as a stockbroker, James Hogle visited zoos around the country. He noted that most were operated by nonprofit zoological societies, not the city. He proposed the same arrangement to Salt Lake City, and the city agreed.

That led to the formation of the Utah Zoological Society, the hiring of an independent professional zookeeper and the start of regular fundraising efforts. Since then, the zoo has mostly thrived, especially in the last 20 years since Craig Dinsmore was hired as executive director. With the addition of several innovative exhibits in recent years — the African Savanna, a large lions pen and Rocky Shores (home of seals, otters, polar bears) — the zoo has topped 1 million visitors five of the past six years.

“This is the best era of the zoo, unquestionably,” says Jim Hogle. “I’ve got to give credit to Craig and his staff.”

The care of the animals and the quality of the animal homes inside the zoo have earned national recognition. Hogle Zoo is one of only 232 zoos and aquariums that have met the stringent accreditation standards of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In 2015, Hogle Zoo was selected as the host for the annual AZA conference with about 2,500 delegates from various nations.

It has a come a long way since Jim was a boy and his family had to care for some of the animals in their home. His father showed up at the house one day with a box of baby tigers that had been rejected by their mother. In those days, the zoo offered little in the way of vet care. The family nursed the three tigers around the clock.

“I had three brothers, and we loved playing with the tigers,” says Jim. “What we didn’t know is that they are on a two-hour feeding schedule, and when they’re hungry they can really scream. It went on all night. My poor parents.”

After a few months, the tigers wore out their welcome after biting one of the boys on the wrist.

Jim worked at the zoo himself for a few months at the age of 12. He picked up trash for $1 a day. “I had to buy lunch at the concession stand, so I netted about 30 cents a day,” he says. “I think my dad just wanted to get rid of me for a summer.”

Jim has been affiliated with the zoo almost his entire life, from picking up trash to helping to oversee its development.

“Jim has guided the zoo through a period of significant growth and change, to the point where it is now considered one of the leading zoos in the country,” says Dinsmore. “All the while, Jim has remained one of the nicest and most caring people you will ever meet. This, more than anything else, is why Jim Hogle is loved and respected by so many.”