Not surprisingly for the man who brought the big-box store to the hardware business, when Bernie Marcus decided that Atlanta needed an aquarium, he wanted it to be large. And he got his wish: the Georgia Aquarium is the grandest in the world. Marcus was the co-founder of Home Depot, and after he decided to give a present to the Atlantans who made his stores successful by shopping at and staffing them, he went seeking something accessible that all kinds of people could enjoy. He ultimately gave $250 million to build and stock the giant fish tank, which opened in 2005. The facility recently hosted its 20-millionth visitor.
The centerpiece exhibit is an acrylic enclosure holding 6.3 million gallons of sea water and four whale sharks that many biologists did not believe could be successfully transported (by boat, truck, and plane) from Taiwan. The aquarium is also host to one of only two captured sets of great hammerhead sharks, and the only four manta rays displayed in a U.S. aquarium. There are dolphins, Japanese spider crabs, black-footed penguins, and a new exhibit of sea otters. The facility is also home to the Correll Center for Aquatic Animal Health, the world’s only integration of an aquarium and veterinarian teaching hospital. It uses 10,000 square feet to produce some of the leading research on conservation of sea creatures.
- About the aquarium, georgiaaquarium.org/members-and-donors/about-us.aspx
- Marcus profile in Philanthropy, philanthropyroundtable.org/topic/excellence_in_philanthropy/building_america