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Dwight Lawson: the OKC Zoo’s Animal Ambassador



      

We All Pine For The Dream Job That Feels More Like Play Than Work.

Whether it was his passion for animal conservation, his impressive credentials or the sheer number of snakes that have populated his résumé between grade school and a PhD, the career gods smiled on Dr. Dwight Lawson, who just celebrated the anniversary of his first year as executive director and CEO of the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Gardens.


How long have you been in Oklahoma City?

Just over a year.
 

Where were you before?

I was the director of Zoo Atlanta before coming to Oklahoma City.
 

What is your hometown?

I’m an Air Force brat. I was born in Louisiana, moved to Pakistan and graduated from high school in North Carolina.
 

Where did you go to college?

University of Pennsylvania. My masters and doctorate are from University of Texas at Arlington.
 

What was the focus of your doctorate?

Quantitative biology.
 

Were you that kid who always had a snake or a turtle your room?

Yes! In fact, I still keep pet turtles in a pond at my house now.
 

If you weren’t working in this field, what profession would you be in?

I come from a long line of bankers and accountants, so maybe I’d have followed that path. I went to grad school to study snakes in central Africa, so my career has really been a departure from that line of work.
 

What was your first job?

I was a bag boy at a grocery store in North Carolina.
 

What are some of your goals for the Zoo?

We’re just opening the (Joan Kirkpatrick) animal hospital and we’re about to have an expansion to the Asian exhibit for the rhinos, as well as a two-story restaurant to overlook the elephant exhibit. I’d also like to see us modernize some of the older facilities in the core structures of the zoo and expand the botanical gardens, creating more of an event space.
 

Does a guy who studied vipers for years in Africa get creeped out by any other animal?

Certain bugs creep me out. They’re unpredictable. One second, they’re over there; the next, they’re on your neck.
 

What talent would you most like to have?

Probably some kind of artistic talent. And I’d like to do a better job at public speaking.
 

What is the most important lesson you learned from your parents?

They were supportive and taught me to have the confidence that whatever I wanted to do for a career was OK.
 

Is there anything you absolutely won’t eat?

Meatloaf. Just to look at it …
 

What should people learn to do?

Get outside! And read. Stop and read the graphics at the animal exhibits. What you learn from doing that is fascinating.
 

What do you bring to a crowded room?

A bunch of oddball snake stories!
 

As you look back, is there something you would have started doing sooner?

I might have had kids earlier, but the tradeoff is the schooling that my wife and I both experienced.
 

Was there a moment along your path that changed the trajectory of your career?

I was a pre-med student at Penn. I ended up in Costa Rica for a course in tropical ecology. I was amazed that people even did this kind of study and I had a professor who was not mainstream at all, but he was extremely passionate about the subject.
 

What can’t you resist watching if you see it’s on TV?

Any old Steve Martin comedy.
 

Do you collect anything?

I think I have more than 200 African masks that I collected while I was there for my field study. I have several pieces of African artwork, too.
 


What advice would you put inside a fortune cookie?

Question. That’s my advice: question.
 

How do you define happiness?

Having a fulfilling career with a family connection that benefits the community – and finding a balance between that and time with my own family.
 

If you suddenly ended up having a half-day to yourself, how would you spend it?

I’d putter around the house and spend it with my daughter.
 

Who do you think you could be mistaken for?

I get Mitt Romney a lot. Interestingly, when I did some field study in Costa Rica, there was another student there who looked just like me and his name was Dwayne Lawson.
 

What do you wish you were better at saying “no” to?

Several things at work – I like being hands-on, but sometimes I have to tell myself to let go.
 

Ginger or Mary Ann?

Mary Ann.
 

What are you most grateful for?

Opportunities, second chances and seeing, in hindsight, that some things that didn’t work out at the time actually did work out for the best.




 

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Calendar

September 2019

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

    OKC's premiere chamber orchestra presents their 2019-2020 season opening concert! This concert will include Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 23, featuring pianist soloist,...

Cost: Free

Where:
21C Hotel
900 W. Main St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Telephone: 405-268-3978
Contact Name: Katie Barrick
Website »

More information

Bill Maher is an American comedian, Emmy nominated talk show host and political commentator who has been entertaining live audiences on the stage and on the television for three...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway & DCF Concerts
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

The Barber of Seville Rossini’s comic masterpiece comes to the Freede Little Theater! When Count Almaviva and his love Rosina run into an issue preventing them from being married -...

Cost: $35 or $50. Prices do not include fees.

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Painted Sky Opera
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

EVERY BRILLIANT THING strikes a delicate balance between sobering loss and cathartic laughter as it recounts a life lived in the shadow of suicide.  By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe,...

Cost: 40.00

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

For the First time ever in Oklahoma City Pauleen & La Brasa present Bollywood Dance Night . Introducing Hindi Music @La Brasa Saturday 21st September. 10 PM 

Cost: $5

Where:
La Brasa
1310 NW 25th ST
Oklahoma , OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: Pauleen
Contact Name: Pauleen

More information

La Brasa & Pauleen present Bollywood Night at La Brasa this Saturday, September 21st.  This is one of the first Hindi Music events to happen in Oklahoma City and anyone can come...

Cost: $5

Where:
La Brasa
1310 NW 25th St
Oklahoma City , OK  73105
View map »


Telephone: 405-524-2251
Contact Name: Pauleen
Website »

More information

Show More...
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The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Join us as we welcome poet, musician and Native American activist Lyla June as the keynote speaker of the eighth annual Ableson Religious Reconciliation Lecture on Sept. 24. Starting at 7 p.m. in...

Cost: Free

Where:
USAO Ballroom
1727 W. Alabama Ave.
Chickasha, OK  73018
View map »


Sponsor: University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
Telephone: 405-574-1381
Contact Name: Zach Simpson
Website »

More information

Audiences across North America are toasting a new production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Rich with musical hits you know and love, including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset;'...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Audiences across North America are toasting a new production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Rich with musical hits you know and love, including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset;'...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Dive Bar Saints World Tour DIVE BAR SAINTS, is the title track in Home Free’s upcoming album release, which is out this summer.  The band’s rich, Southern harmonies...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Hudiburg Chevrolet Center
6000 Prosper Blvd
Midwest City, OK  73110
View map »


Sponsor: Emproium Presents
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Professional instruction in the art of improvisation. Though some experience with improvisation is beneficial, all skill levels are welcome, no prerequisite classes.  Though sketch comedy...

Cost: $175 for the full term

Where:
The Paramount Room
701 W. Sheridan Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Space OKC
Telephone: 405-887-3327
Contact Name: AL Caveny
Website »

More information

Audiences across North America are toasting a new production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Rich with musical hits you know and love, including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset;'...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS™: THE STEAM TEAM TOUR 2019 IS PULLING INTO OKLAHOMA RAILWAY MUSEUM FOR THOMAS & FRIENDS’ BIGGEST YEAR YET! ENJOY A DAY OF FAMILY FUN WITH THOMAS THE TANK...

Cost: $18

Where:
Oklahoma Railway Museum
3400 NE Grand Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Contact Name: Danielle Fusaro
Website »

More information

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

Professional instruction in the art of improvisation. Though some experience with improvisation is beneficial, all skill levels are welcome, no prerequisite classes.  Though sketch comedy...

Cost: $175 for the full term

Where:
The Paramount Room
701 W. Sheridan Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Space OKC
Telephone: 405-887-3327
Contact Name: AL Caveny
Website »

More information

Audiences across North America are toasting a new production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Rich with musical hits you know and love, including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset;'...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

The Barber of Seville Rossini’s comic masterpiece comes to the Freede Little Theater! When Count Almaviva and his love Rosina run into an issue preventing them from being married -...

Cost: $35 or $50. Prices do not include fees.

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Painted Sky Opera
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us for the St. Jude Walk/Run during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, to raise money for the kids of St. Jude, where families never receive a bill for anything. Let's end...

Cost: $10 Registration Fee

Where:
Myriad Botanical Gardens
301 W Reno Ave
Oklahoma City , OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Telephone: 405-815-5705
Contact Name: Emily Drover
Website »

More information

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS™: THE STEAM TEAM TOUR 2019 IS PULLING INTO OKLAHOMA RAILWAY MUSEUM FOR THOMAS & FRIENDS’ BIGGEST YEAR YET! ENJOY A DAY OF FAMILY FUN WITH THOMAS THE TANK...

Cost: $18

Where:
Oklahoma Railway Museum
3400 NE Grand Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Contact Name: Danielle Fusaro
Website »

More information

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

We're poppin' champagne on the patio this Saturday and raffling off a bottle of Perrier-Jouet valued at $300! Come pre-party with us and DJ Catherine Ouellette from 6pm-10pm -...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sheraton Oklahoma City Downtown Hotel
1, N Broadway Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

Professional instruction in the art of improvisation. Though some experience with improvisation is beneficial, all skill levels are welcome, no prerequisite classes.  Though sketch comedy...

Cost: $175 for the full term

Where:
The Paramount Room
701 W. Sheridan Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Space OKC
Telephone: 405-887-3327
Contact Name: AL Caveny
Website »

More information

Two big artists, one great night of music. 

Cost: $35-$65

Where:
The Auditorium at The Douglass
600 N. High
OKC, OK  73117
View map »


Sponsor: The Blue Door & Kessler Presentss
Telephone: 405-652-9541
Contact Name: Melissa Monroe
Website »

More information

Audiences across North America are toasting a new production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Rich with musical hits you know and love, including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset;'...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Show More...
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