“Every animal tugs at your heart,” says Suzanne Gottlieb, a philanthropist and lifelong nature lover, “but the Health Center takes care of everybody.” Which is why, instead of earmarking her $2 million gift to benefit one of her favorite animal species, she chose to name the Zoo’s state-of-the-art veterinary facility, which is officially christened the Gottlieb Animal Health and Conservation Center, in honor of Suzanne and her late husband, attorney Robert J. Gottlieb.
A former docent with the Virginia Robinson Gardens in Beverly Hills, Suzanne was also enamored by the Zoo’s botanical gardens, but a tour of the Health Center convinced her to make it part of her and her husband’s legacy. She was especially impressed by the dedication and skill of the veterinary staff and their willingness to share their knowledge with visitors and vets-in-training.
Robert Gottlieb was a renowned attorney whose clients included the biggest names in the automotive industry: Cadillac, General Motors, and Petersen Publishing, to name a few. A classic car connoisseur, he became one of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject, contributing his editorial expertise to automotive magazines, including “Classic Comments,” his long-running column for Motor Trend.
But while automobiles were the driving force of his professional life, at home he had a soft spot for animals. “He was a real animal lover,” Suzanne says. “He used to come home with animals all the time. Dogs, mainly. One time, it was a rabbit!”
Luckily, Suzanne shared her husband’s love of animals. Born in the Philippines, she was raised primarily in the South. Her father was in the Cavalry, “the old Army,” and as a result, the family moved often. “My father was stationed all over. It was a fantastic life.” In the family’s frequent moves, one thing remained constant: animals. “We carted them with us, wherever we went,” she recalls. “We didn’t go by airplane then; you either drove or you went by train. And we always took our animals with us.”
Suzanne met Robert in 1952, when she took a secretarial job at Trend, Inc., which would later become known as Petersen Publishing Company. In their more than forty years of marriage, they had a succession of pets including Great Danes, Saint Bernards, an Irish wolf hound, a Yorkshire terrier, and a Bassett hound. “Everything down the pike,” she laughs. Today, Suzanne shares her home with two rescued Old English sheep dogs.