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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

May 2019

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
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Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
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Cost: Free

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Wheeler Ferris Wheel
1701 S. Western Ave.
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James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

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ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
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Telephone: 405.815.9995
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MILLER IN MAY HOME TOUR HIGHLIGHTS CHARACTER AND CHARM The 20th anniversary of Miller's beloved home tour Miller Neighborhood's most popular event is back for 2019… and...

Cost: $10 - $30

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Miller Neighborhood
NW 10th to NW 16th, N Villa to N May
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View map »


Sponsor: Miller Neighborhood Association
Telephone: 405.642.5982
Contact Name: Elizabeth Beard

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Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

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

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
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Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
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OKC's premier chamber orchestra, the Oklahoma Virtuosi, presents their season finale concert.  Concert will include: St. Paul's Suite Op.29 No.2 by Gustav Holst,...

Cost: Free

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21C Hotel
900 W. Main St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
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Website »

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As the first anniversary of her sixth album Conversation With A Ghost approaches in June, Italian-born and Austin-based singer-songwriter Giulia Millanta possesses a...

Cost: $15-$20

Where:
The Blue Door
2805 N. McKinley Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
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Sponsor: The Blue Door
Telephone: (405) 524-0738
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"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Piedmont Airlines will be hosting a Information Session for ramp agent jobs at Embassy Suites in OKC. Please plan to spend up to 3 hours with us, as we will have you fill out applications, listen...

Cost: Free

Where:
Embassy Suites
1815 South Meridian Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73108
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Sponsor: Piedmont Airlines
Telephone: 704-359-2477
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James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Watch happy hour turn to golden hour while we fill the air with live music. For 5 consecutive Tuesday evenings, we invite OKC to come out after work to enjoy a variety of food, views,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Chisholm Creek
1316 W Memorial Rd
Oklahoma City, OK  73114
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Sponsor: OkSessions.com
Contact Name: James
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"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

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...

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

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...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


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

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

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More than 90 visual artists will line the streets of the Historic Paseo Arts District, selling original artwork in a wide variety of media, from painting and photography to wood and jewelry, and...

Cost: Free

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Paseo Arts District
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Sponsor: Paseo Arts Association
Telephone: 405-525-2688
Contact Name: Paige Powell
Website »

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Enjoy all your favorite activities at the Orr Family Farm for a special price! Admission is only $8 per person on this day only.

Where:
Orr Family Farm
14400 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73170
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Telephone: 405.509.9312
Contact Name: Lauren Daughety

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"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


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

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

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Cost: Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass!

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Place
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Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

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

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
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Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

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