Robert J. Hoage, spokesman for National Zoo, dies at 66

May 12, 2012

Robert J. Hoage, 66, the former chief spokesman of the National Zoo, who announced to the public such events as the births of giant pandas, elephants and giraffes and the deaths of lions, orangutans and gorillas, died April 7 at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville.

He had complications from amyloidosis, a disease of the blood and bone marrow, his son Neal Hoage said.

Dr. Hoage joined the staff at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoological Park in 1974 as a researcher. He participated in studies of wild animals around the world. He became chief of the office of public affairs in 1981 and served in that capacity until retiring in 2003.

He also taught animal behavior and ecology at colleges, including Montgomery College and Prince George’s Community College.

Robert Jay Hoage was born Jan. 30, 1946, in Washington. He was a 1964 graduate of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and a 1969 graduate of the University of Maryland. At the University of Pittsburgh, he received a master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 and a doctorate in biological anthropology and primatology in 1978.


Robert J. Hoage was former director of public affairs for the National Zoo. (FAMILY PHOTO)

As a researcher, his subjects of study included an endangered South American monkey. While working at the National Zoo, he received a grant from the Fish and Wildlife Service to explore the establishment of a tropical primate studies program at several U.S. universities.

As the National Zoo’s chief spokesman, his duties included explanations of the zoo’s conservation and scientific work. He announced hatchings of Komodo dragons and Micronesian kingfishers and such research breakthroughs as artificial insemination in cheetahs, pandas and elephants. He also discussed such unusual events as the death of a transient mental patient who in 1995 was mauled by lions after entering the lion enclosure.

Dr. Hoage produced eight symposia, with speakers from scientific organizations and academic institutions. He edited and coordinated five volumes stemming from the symposia. After retiring from the National Zoo, he taught until this year at Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore.

In retirement, he spent time on the Chesapeake Bay on a motor cruiser. He was a resident of Pasadena in Anne Arundel County.

His first marriage, to Carole Meininger, ended in divorce. His second wife, Patricia Pendergast, whom he married in 1976, died in 2010.

Survivors include a son from his first marriage, Christopher Hoage of Millersville; two sons from his second marriage, Neal Hoage of Silver Spring and Kevin Hoage of Pasadena; a stepdaughter, Theresa Yost of Poolesville; two brothers, James Hoage of Severna Park and Donald Hoage of Kensington; five grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

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