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2024 Distinguished Alumni - Josh Sisk, Class of 1997

2024 Distinguished Alumni - Josh Sisk, Class of 1997

May 2024

Holden R-3 School District announces the recipient of the 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award.

Every year, Holden R-3 School District honors a past graduate who exemplifies the values, traditions, and successes of Holden High School by naming a Distinguished Alumni. Recipients of this award have shown dedication to and excellence in their chosen field. This year’s Distinguished Alumni is Mr. Joshua Sisk, 1997 Holden High School graduate.

photo of Joshua Sisk Distinguished Alumni Class of 1997 in suit coat in front of coral blooming trees

Growing up on a farm, Josh was no stranger to caring for animals and even worked with exotic animals at a local, private zoo as a teenager. After high school graduation, he moved to the west coast to pursue acting, but his heart for animals eventually led him to accept a job as an Animal Keeper at the Los Angeles Zoo in Los Angeles, California.

Along Josh’s career path, his priority for continued education is evident. He sought out opportunities to further his knowledge by earning his Master of Science in Zoology from Miami University in Ohio, as well as hone his craft through hands-on fieldwork in Mexico, Kenya, Malaysia, and Namibia. Over the years, his work has taken him to the Central Park Zoo in New York City, NY, where he served as a Supervisor, and Bronx Zoo in Bronx, NY, where he held the title of Assistant Curator of Special Animal Exhibits. He started his tenure at his current location as a General Curator, and now with over twenty years in the industry, has led the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, Indiana, as the Executive Director since 2019.

“Mr. Sisk is a servant leader who advocates for our animals, his staff, the community, and his peers. He promotes innovation, empowers his employees, and assures the well-being of those around them while driving profitable growth,” shared Amber Pulford when she was President of the Board of Directors for the Zoo.

Even before becoming Executive Director, Josh worked tirelessly to guide the zoo through the re-accreditation process with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). Accreditation with AZA earns zoos and aquariums a high level of respect because it ensures they are following industry best practices and have met or exceeded expectations in a variety of standards such as conservation, safety, and education. Over the past 5 years under Mr. Sisk’s leadership, the zoo has been undergoing one of its largest revitalizations in its history with nearly $15 million in updates including a front entry plaza and gift shop, a giraffe habitat build, transformation of an old chimpanzee exhibit into a lion enclosure, and an Andean bear habitat with attached cafe. Board Member Pulford stated, “Mr. Sisk is a visionary who is transforming our treasured community zoo into unprecedented growth as a regional destination.”

photo of Joshua Sisk with an emu in the background

During his time at Holden High School, Josh was involved in choir, FFA, served as a Student Council representative for his senior class, and was crowned Barnwarming King senior year. His nomination was submitted by Debbie Riley, a retired Holden R-3 teacher. He will be recognized as Holden High School Distinguished Alumni 2024 and will address the graduating class at the graduation ceremony on May 19, 2024, at Holden High School at 2:00pm.