Passions Project: Dean Banick

Zoo volunteer

Photographed at Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago

Dean Banick’s sweet smile hints at his passion for engaging with people and animals.

Banick, who lives at The Admiral at the Lake in Chicago, has been a volunteer docent at the Lincoln Park Zoo for 21 years. After he retired from his career as a commercial banker, he immediately signed up to volunteer at the zoo and at the Art Institute of Chicago.

“When I retired, I knew I would need something to do, so I picked my favorite things: working with animals and art,” he says.

His love of animals runs deep. Until seventh grade, he grew up living on a farm in Rochester, Minnesota, where he had a pet lamb and calf and took care of many different animals.

As a tour guide at the zoo, Banick helps visitors deepen their appreciation for the animals. “I love the giraffe house best — they are such interesting animals. But I also enjoy the reptile house, too,” he says.

At the giraffe house, he rattles off fun facts about giraffes, such as what they like to eat and how they have the same number of vertebrae in their necks as humans. He also talks about the types of giraffes and how long they’ve been at the zoo.

Banick is passionate not only about animals, but also about interact- ing with visitors, asking them questions and stimulating their enthusiasm.

“I love being around people,” he says. “I became a zoo ambassador so that I could talk to visitors about the animals. It combines several of my passions.”


Photos and Words by Heidi Wagner

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