Angela (Cecil) Binney ‘86 took her passion for animals and turned it into an exciting career.
Angela has been working at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom for more than two decades. She now works on the zoo registrar team at the park as Animal Records Coordinator. Ms. Binney attended Rabun Gap for two years as a boarding student. She received a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Management Purdue University after graduating from Rabun Gap. Ms. Binney lives in Clermont, Florida and is married with two children.
Tell us about where you went to college and what you’ve been up to after graduating from Rabun Gap. What have you done as a career?
I have a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Science from Purdue University. My original intent was to work for the US Fish and Wildlife Service or the Department of the Interior (National Park Service). However, permanent jobs in those agencies are very hard to land without an advanced degree or hiring preference via military or Peace Corps service.
After a seasonal position at Cumberland Island National Seashore, I found myself working as a zookeeper at the Jacksonville Zoo. This was intended to be a temporary learning opportunity to get some hands-on experience with animals while I navigated the GRE and graduate school application and funding process. However; I ended up embracing zoo keeping as a career for 19 years due to the job security, benefits, and the fun factor (I got to train big cats, rhinos, exotic hoofed stock, and birds, which was truly amazing).
In 1997, I joined the opening team for Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park where I have worked for 22 years. I had the opportunity to join the Science Team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2012, where I worked as the Animal Research Coordinator. In 2015, I joined the Animal Records and Regulatory Affairs team, where I learned the Zoo Registrar profession. The Registrar manages the animal collection records, animal transaction and shipping processes, and regulatory aspects of zoo management, such as permits. I enjoy learning new things and challenging myself to grow and learn throughout my career.
How would you say Rabun Gap has impacted your life since leaving? Did it change you as a person?
Rabun Gap gave me an opportunity to be more independent and manage my own affairs at a young age. I learned the responsibility that comes with taking care of my own living space and belongings, as well as job skills and professionalism, and taking pride in a job well done. I organized my own vacations, including transportation, housing, and funding. I began to manage my own finances by my junior year as I needed to purchase supplies, clothes, and plane tickets from my own account. I am not sure I would have had the same level of independence if I had stayed at home until graduation. This built confidence and aptitude needed in adult life.
The spiritual influence gained through the church, campus life, and Christian Emphasis Weeks really changed how I saw the world and how I fit into it. It gave my life purpose and a source of strength and faith needed to face life's ups and downs. Rabun Gap also taught me about relationship building. Living with such a large “family” was a unique experience that bonded us and led to friendships that last a lifetime.
What advice do you have for current Rabun Gap students that you wish someone told you during your time at school?
Embrace the Rabun Gap experience and take advantage of all of the opportunities available to you. Make an effort to get to know all of your fellow students and aim to be a good friend and a positive influence. I didn’t realize how fast high school would go by and often took the Gap for granted. I didn’t know what a blessing it was at the time. But now I look back fondly and I am thankful for my time there; however, I know I could have done more to embrace campus life and grow as a person while I was there. I also know I could have been a better student. I had no idea that my academic choices at the age of 16 could affect me for the rest of my life! Work hard, focus, and don’t give in to social influences that can distract from your big-picture goals.
What makes Rabun Gap a special place?
Rabun Gap is a unique experience in many ways. Living away from home in middle school or high school is very rare for the average American student. Relationships can grow much stronger than at a regular public school, as students and faculty share daily life experiences. The beautiful campus and opportunities far exceed those of a regular public school. I know much has changed, but I found the Outdoor Club, Equestrian Club, and class field trips to white water rafting and skiing very unique. The Work, Study, Worship philosophy provided balance and perspective that a traditional school experience lacks.
What was the greatest lesson being at Rabun Gap taught you?
I think the biggest lesson I learned in my time at Rabun Gap is about balance. Not only did I learn this through the mission of work, study, worship, but also through the campus life, making friends, and spending time soaking up nature on campus and the surrounding area.
What's your favorite memory from Rabun Gap?
I was happiest in the Outdoor Club. Hiking and backpacking trips with the Outdoor Club were my most treasured moments.
Which teachers or classmates made the most lasting impact on your life?
Many teachers, faculty, and classmates impressed me in different ways. Mrs. Yates was such a positive role model and showed us the value of hard work and dedication. She was always very encouraging, trying to build up our confidence. Mrs. Walton inspired my lifetime love of history. Mrs. Oliver taught me about character, as she was always such a good role model. And Mr. Blalock, our counselor, and Outdoor Club leader inspired me to appreciate the simple, basic aspects of life by getting us out into nature.