Niki Theobald wasn’t able to attend veterinary school, but a love of animals has guided her life. The Colorado native worked at a wolf rescue, at zoos and at the Duke Lemur Center before joining the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine as the director of development for the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Foundation.
Theobald’s job is securing the support of major donors for the CVM’s ongoing research, education opportunities and cutting-edge patient care. And she gets to still be around animals, too.
What made you want to go into this field?
My passion growing up was to become a veterinarian, but I’ve always been good with people and that, combined with my love of animals, has turned out to make this a good fit for me.
What will you be doing in your new role?
Finding new resources for the college and hospital so the people here can keep doing what they do so well and help the animals that we all care for so much. I will be working with major donors primarily and also helping to establish our annual giving society.
What are you most excited about in this job?
Raising money for a cause that I’m so passionate about. It sort of brings me full circle to the path I envisioned for myself as a kid.
What is your background?
My love of animals led to an opportunity at the Wolf Rescue Center in Lake George, Colo. After a year there, I ended up getting a two-year natural resource technician degree with an emphasis on zookeeping. I was hired as a zookeeper at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colo. I started out working with birds and reptiles, and after a year moved over to working with great apes. Eventually, I worked at a zoo in Phoenix. While I was there they asked me to help with donor events and shows. When I moved here, I went to work at the Duke Lemur Center in the education and development department. I became the interim director and then the director of the development and education department at the Center. I was at Duke for nine years, the last two in development for the School of Nursing. I missed animals, and when I found out about the opportunity here, it gave me a chance to go back to what I care about the most.
What is something someone would be surprised to learn about you?
When I was a kid I was so shy that I couldn’t pick up the phone to order a pizza. I cried if my mom would make me do it, But she wanted me to develop social skills, and I’m glad she did. Later I worked as a waitress and found out I could work well with people and look where I am now!
When you’re not on campus, where could we find you?
Carting my kids around. My husband, Karl, and I have a blended family. He has 14-year-old twin daughters, Kailee and Karlee, and I have two girls, Kendall and Morgan, and a boy, Cade, ages 10, 8 and 5. I feel like an Uber driver. We all love being outdoors. We spend a lot of time at the Museum of Life and Science and at Bass Lake. And we have a boat at Jordan Lake, too.
Tell us about your pets?
We have three dogs named Mighty Malcolm, Harli and Zeke, two cats named Brulee and Rocky, and a fish named Jerry. We just have one fish because Jerry is a beta. He doesn’t get along well with others. So I’m still a zookeeper, too.