Tennessee Aquarium president and CEO Charlie Arant announced his retirement to staff and volunteers this morning by thanking them for their service during his more than 20-year tenure, according to a news release.

“The people I’ve worked with at the Aquarium are just incredible,” said Arant. “Their efforts are just far beyond anything you could expect as a leader.”
On March 20, 1995, Arant became the third president and CEO in the Aquarium’s history. Under his direction, the non-profit organization has seen many milestones. A few of them include:

  • Opening of the IMAX 3D Theater in 1996
  • The Aquarium’s Conservation Institute established in 1996
  • Education Department launches regional outreach programs in 1997
  • Education Department accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in 2001 (The Aquarium remains the only zoo or aquarium accredited as a Special Purpose School.)
  • Opening of Ocean Journey in 2005
  • Launch of the River Gorge Explorer in 2008
  • Aquarium receives the National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services in 2009
  • Announcement of a permanent facility for the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute – 2015

“I am extremely proud of what this team has been able to accomplish in every facet of Aquarium operations,” said Mr. Arant. “There is a level of commitment and care from this staff that goes way beyond their job descriptions.”

Arant is leaving on a high note as the Aquarium’s significance within the Chattanooga community continues to rise. “Charlie has provided exceptional leadership to the Aquarium during his long tenure, and we will miss him,” said John Giblin, Executive Vice President & Chief  Financial Officer of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. Giblin is chairing the Aquarium Board of Trustees’ search committee. “These are exciting times for the Aquarium, and the search committee has an important challenge ahead of us to find the right person to carry this positive momentum into the future.”
As an economic engine, the Aquarium has an annual economic impact on the Chattanooga area of $101.3 million dollars, supporting nearly 1,100 jobs throughout the community and adding $6.3 million dollars in additional tax revenue for the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County to support essential services.
As an educational resource, the Aquarium continues to provide award-winning programs. In 2014, the Aquarium helped more than 80,000 students learn about the natural world through the underwater lens of a richly diverse gathering of animals. Field trip opportunities, classroom lessons, IMAX learning modules, educational cruises aboard the River Gorge Explorer and free educational services for students with limited financial means have all been added or expanded in the past 20 years.
As an environmental organization, the Aquarium has been taking a leadership role in freshwater conservation.  More scientists have been hired to study and protect the extraordinary aquatic habitats and animals of the Southeast. By working collaboratively with a broad group of conservation partners, the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute has been able to pool available resources to achieve maximum success. Technology is being used creatively to monitor the progress of conservation field programs and enable other scientists to share information data more efficiently. With a new biological field station being built as a central base of operations, this critical work is expected to grow even more.
Arant is confident the Aquarium has a bright future with a large number of seasoned veterans, passionate volunteers, and a dedicated board of trustees in place. “This organization is focused on providing a world-class experience, excellence in animal care and meaningful education and conservation programs. There is no limit to what will be accomplished in the many years to come with continued community support.”
A nationwide search for the Aquarium’s next leader is underway.
Arant has informed the Aquarium’s Board of Trustees that he will remain actively engaged until his replacement is named.