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About Riverbanks

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is home to more than 2,000 magnificent and fascinating animals and one of the nation’s most beautiful and inspiring botanical gardens. The Zoo first opened its gates to the local community on April 25, 1974, and has continued for more than four decades to provide individuals, families and groups with a common place to connect with and learn about the world’s wildlife and wild places. Today Riverbanks is one of the largest mid-sized zoos in the United States and South Carolina’s leading destination attraction, boasting a national reputation as one of America’s best zoos and drawing one million visitors annually.

In June 1995 Riverbanks Botanical Garden opened to the public. The extraordinary garden blooms year-round with more than 4,300 species of native and exotic plants and provides a living classroom for gardeners and non-gardeners alike. The formal Walled Garden offers a picture-perfect location for weddings and special events. One of Riverbanks’ newest attractions, Waterfall Junction, opened April 7, 2016. The 3-acre interactive children’s garden within the Botanical Garden inspires exploration, imagination and nature play with tree houses, a dinosaur bone dig, splash zones and plenty of room to roam.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973, Riverbanks is also the site of structural remains dating back to the early 1800s with South Carolina’s textile industry and the Civil War. Historic ruins can be seen from various locations along the footbridge linking the Zoo and Garden as well as along the naturally wooded River Trail.

Mission Statement

It is the mission of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden to create meaningful connections and inspire actions that will have a lasting impact on conservation. We are dedicated to providing the highest standards of care for our animals and plants, delivering a diverse educational and high-quality recreational experience for all Riverbanks visitors, and utilizing all available resources for the conservation of the earth's flora and fauna.

Executive Biographies

Thomas K. “Tommy” Stringfellow President & CEO

With nearly 30 years of experience in the zoo and attractions industries, Thomas K. Stringfellow is only the third executive to oversee the Zoo in its 43-year-history. He began his career at Riverbanks in 2002 as director of marketing and was promoted to chief operating officer in 2011. Stringfellow was named president and CEO in August of 2017.

Prior to his tenure at Riverbanks, Stringfellow directed sales and marketing for various theme parks across the United States including Six Flags Over Georgia, Six Flags Whitewater Water Park and American Adventures Family Entertainment Center and Six Flags Great Escape and Water Park.

For nearly two decades Stringfellow has been dedicated to ensuring Riverbanks’ continued growth, financial success and leadership in the field of conservation. During his inaugural year as president, Riverbanks was named Best South Carolina Attraction by readers of USA Today. The Zoo also welcomed nearly 1.3 million guests and celebrated numerous births including a giraffe calf, two western lowland gorillas, and five African lion cubs.

An active member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, he has served terms on the Marketing Advisory Committee for AZA and both the Columbia Metropolitan of Conventions and Visitors Bureau and Atlanta Convention and Tourism Board. He is an active member of the community and served on the Board of Directors for Palmetto Health’s Camp Kemo.

Stringfellow is a native South Carolinian and is married with two sons and one daughter.

Bud M. Tibshrany Chair, Riverbanks Park Commission

Mr. Tibshrany has been an active member of the Commission since 2007. As Commission Chair, Tibshrany is responsible for guiding his fellow Commissioners in business decisions related to Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, from park improvements and maintenance to staffing and operations.

A 43 year veteran of the cable television industry, Tibshrany began his career at Cosmos Cablevision Corporation where he managed cable television systems in areas of Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina. He also was District Manager for Warner Cable in Kingsport, Tennessee. Tibshrany later became founding Vice-President and General Manager of Columbia Cable TV Company, Inc. where he was responsible for the growth and development of the Greater Columbia cable television operation. Tibshrany retired from Time Warner Cable as Vice-President of Public Affairs in 2007.

Tibshrany also served time in the United States Armed Forces. He completed Introductory Basic Combat Infantry Training at Camp Pendleton, California and received Honorable Discharge from the United States Naval Reserve after serving on active duty at the U.S. Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado, California, Beachmaster Unit One.

In addition to serving on the Park Commission, Tibshrany is a Past President of Riverbanks Society’s Board of Directors. He also is a Past Chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Board of Directors, Past Chairman of the Crimestoppers Board of Directors and Past Treasurer of the Midlands Interfaith Homeless Action Council Board of Directors.

In addition, Tibshrany is a Past President and lifetime member of the Columbia City Ballet Board of Directors, a member of the Executive and Advisory Boards of the Indian Waters Council — Boy Scouts of America, a member of the Columbia Arts Festival Executive Committee and Board of Directors, and a Distinguished Past President and a member of the Columbia Kiwanis Club.

Learn more about Riverbanks Park Commission.

Susan S. Keenan President, Riverbanks Society Board of Directors

Sue Keenan has served as the Director of Institutional Advancement at Hammond School in Columbia since 2015. Sue is responsible for all facets of the school's fund-raising planning and development efforts. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, she is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) with over 18 years of experience in the non-profit sector as both consultant and executive director.

Prior to relocating to Columbia, Sue served as Executive Director of the Roper St. Francis Foundation in Charleston from 2004 to 2014. Sue and her team successfully led efforts to revitalize the Roper St. Francis Foundation, taking the Foundation from a grant making organization to a supporting arm of the healthcare system. Sue is an active member in the community. She and her husband, Neel, have five sons.

Learn more about Riverbanks Society.