Return to All News

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Unveils Dr. Alex Ernst Memorial Education Center at Atlantic Cape’s Cape May County Campus

05/13/2024 | Media Contact: David Zuba, Public Relations Manager and Copywriter | (609) 343-4933
Atlantic Cape President Dr. Barbara Gaba with her husband and members of the Board of Trustees

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — It was a vision that the late Cape May County Park & Zoo Assistant Director and Veterinarian Dr. Alex Ernst had many years ago. On May 10, before a lobby full of attendees, the Zoo held a ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil, in his memory, the Dr. Alex Ernst Memorial Education Center at Atlantic Cape Community College’s Cape May County campus.

Children view some of the animals“This is a momentous occasion as we celebrate this special dedication with Alex’s family. The Zoo Education wing at Atlantic Cape will serve as the headquarters for our Zoo Education Program,” said Leonard C. Desiderio, commissioner director, Cape May County Board of County Commissioners. “The enthusiasm and support from our community through zoo education is truly inspiring and we are confident that our new zoo education link will be a beacon of learning and discovery for generations to come.”

This project was a coordinated effort between the Cape May County Board of Commissioners, the Atlantic Cape Board of Trustees, including Trustee Rev. Dr. Thomas Dawson, who made the initial telephone call to assist in making this concept a reality. The $1.2 million project will now allow the Zoo to provide high quality educational opportunities for Cape May County residents and guests.

“We are honored to be a partner with Cape May County with this education program. These partnerships are both visionary and practical addressing the immediate and long-term needs of Cape May County,” said Dr. Gaba. “This opportunity will benefit the County, Atlantic Cape and the citizens of Cape May County for years to come.”

Widow of Dr. Alex Ernst and daughtersAtlantic Cape’s Board of Trustees and the Cape May County Board of Commissioners formally agreed to this partnership on December 13, 2022. The agreement is another example of collaboration between Atlantic Cape and Cape May County to take steps that match the needs of the community and the Cape May County campus.

“This campus is the hub for Cape May County residents to learn, meet and gather. This zoo project is another example of our commitment to the citizens of Cape May County,” continued Dr. Gaba.

The Dr. Alex Ernst Memorial Education Center and Atlantic Cape’s Cape May County campus features three animal holding rooms for small mammals, reptiles and aviary; two classrooms, three offices and one conference room. The Zoo currently offers a Zoo Camp with 900 registrants, a Zoo to You program, animal encounters and guided tours, a Docent and Littlest Explorers programs.

Getting ready to cut the ceremonial ribbonErnst passed away in December 2023 at the age of 45. His widow, Kira, two daughters, Lydia and Natalie, and mother, Barbara, were in attendance on a day that would have made Ernst very proud.

“Thank you so much for commemorating Alex with this lovely dedication. We are honored to be here today,” said Kira Ernst. “Alex always endeavored to use his position at the Cape May County Zoo and veterinary medicine whether it was speaking at a zoo event, being interviewed on the radio or establishing affiliations with schools and universities, Alex was always happy to advocate for education.”

“Here, we can continue to make a positive impact on the families and children living in our community thanks to the joy that the zoo brings to thousands of visitors annually,” concluded Desiderio. “Most importantly, let us never lose sight of the instrumental role that Alex played in the growth of our zoo and specifically zoo education over the previous 18 years.”

Visit for more information on Atlantic Cape’s Cape May County campus. Visit for more information on Zoo programming.



About Atlantic Cape Community College

Atlantic Cape Community College is a Middle States accredited, 2022 Achieving the Dream Leader College and Hispanic Serving Institution proudly serving the residents of Atlantic and Cape May counties. As a comprehensive, two-year community college, Atlantic Cape offers 47 undergraduate degree programs, and 33 certificate and professional series programs at its Mays Landing, Atlantic City and Cape May campuses. Atlantic Cape is home to the renowned Academy of Culinary Arts, rated the top culinary school in New Jersey, and for more than 50 years, our highly-acclaimed Nursing program. Atlantic Cape also partners with more than 30 colleges and four-year universities to offer students the opportunity to seamlessly earn a bachelor’s degree upon graduation.