Thursday, November 4, 2010

Aquarium Director Plans Retirement

After a varied career in state government which began in 1979, Donna Moffitt is relinquishing the helm as director of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher on December 31. Following tenures in various government departments and divisions including Office of Marine Affairs, Division of Community Assistance and Division of Coastal Management, she joined the Aquarium family in 2004. Interestingly, when the North Carolina Aquariums shifted from Marine Resource Centers to Aquariums in 1986, she was integral in creating the original administrative rules.

Since 2004, Moffitt has weathered everything from new exhibit construction to hurricanes. The Exotic Aquatics gallery, which opened in 2005, brought unusual species like cuttlefish, lionfish and sea snakes from around the world to the Aquarium for the first time. In 2009, the Aquarium’s lobby underwent a major expansion with improved visitor access and a waterfall feature. Luna, a rare albino alligator, also made her home at the Aquarium that year. Under her leadership, Aquarium attendance soared from 403,000 to 445,000, a 10% increase over just six years.

“It has been a pleasure for me to have been director for seven years and to see tangible evidence of how much we’ve accomplished together. This staff does more with less than anywhere I’ve worked. I am excited about what the future holds for the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, particularly the Aquarium Pier in Carolina Beach,” Moffitt said about her tenure at the Aquarium.

Throughout her career, Moffitt was recognized with numerous awards. She was nominated for the Governor’s Award of Excellence in 1991 and awarded the 1997 Director’s Award of Appreciation. In 2009, the General Federation of Women's Clubs of North Carolina awarded her with a Women of Achievement Award and she was recognized as the April 2009 Aquarium Director of the Month by the Zoo and Aquarium Visitor website.

Moffitt holds a Bachelor’s degree in environmental design and a master’s in landscape architecture from North Carolina State University. She went on to earn her juris doctorate from the School of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was also a Loeb Fellow in Advanced Environmental Studies at Harvard University.

In her retirement, Moffitt plans to travel more with her husband Tom. She will continue to serve the community as an appointee to the New Hanover Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors. “My ultimate goal is have lots of time for myself after being in the work force 40 years,” she said with a laugh.

“Donna Moffitt has provided exemplary leadership for the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Her vision and ability to energize staff have moved the Aquarium to a world class facility. Donna’s talents will be missed,” NC Aquariums Division Director David Griffin said.

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is a major tourist attraction on the Cape Fear Coast. The other two North Carolina Aquariums are at Pine Knoll Shores along the Crystal Coast, and on Roanoke Island near the Outer Banks. Together, the three rank among the state’s most-visited attractions each year.

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