Pacific Marine Mammal Center CEO Glenn Gray talks about the organization’s expansion project, plans to save water and future goals.
By Sharon Stello
After celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center is looking to the future with a $14 million expansion project that will provide additional space needed at the nonprofit’s Laguna Canyon site. Groundbreaking took place March 1 and construction—to be completed in phases—is expected to be done in December 2024.
This project will add more pools, increasing capacity for pinniped patients, especially during periods when conditions become dire for marine mammals and occupancy can spike to quadruple its normal numbers; double the area for educational programs, which already serve 35,000 students per year; and also add a cutting-edge treatment room for surgeries and other procedures.
Glenn Gray, who became CEO almost a year ago after serving on the organization’s board of directors for five years, is helping to usher the PMMC through this momentous undertaking that will also allow the center to recycle 5 million gallons of water per year. Gray, a former banking executive with more than four decades of experience in commercial lending and specialty finance, most recently served as CEO of Orange County-based CalWest Bank.
Although he’s been involved with several nonprofits through the years, Gray developed a particular affinity for the PMMC, which rescues sick and injured seals and sea lions, as well as abandoned pups, then treats and releases them back to the ocean. Here, Gray talks about what drew him to the position as well as the expansion project’s details and his goals for helming the center.
Laguna Beach Magazine: Can you tell us about the expansion project and what it entails?
Glenn Gray: Our project will add much needed space in our hospital and education classroom, plus we will add a new water reclamation facility, three additional pools and a building shared with the [city’s] Animal Shelter [next door].
LBM: As the second largest consumer of water in Laguna Beach, why is it important to the center to complete this project that, in part, will allow it to recycle water?
GG: It is vitally important for PMMC to lead by example regarding water conservation. Not only will we save a tremendous amount of water, but when completed, our improved water reclamation processes will be a component of our educational program.
LBM: Do the animals have to be moved off-site during the construction?
GG: We will need to temporarily relocate our patients, and we are timing the move to coincide with … our slow period, around November of 2023. We will still be off-site during next year’s busy season—February to June—however, by then, we will have perfected our animal care operations at the temporary location.
LBM: What drew you to the PMMC and made you want to get involved, first on the board and now as CEO?
GG: My passion for the ocean began with watching the television series “Sea Hunt” as a kid, which led to becoming an avid scuba diver. Diving has provided my wife, Kathryn, and I the opportunity to visit some incredible areas and cultures, but also [to] witness firsthand how the ocean is changing—sadly, not always for the best. We looked for ways to … participate in ocean stewardship and, since we live in Laguna Beach, it was natural to get involved with PMMC. Kathryn served on the board for six years followed by my tenure on the board for five years. When the CEO position opened, I approached the board about filling the position and they agreed. I could not be happier.
LBM: Now that you’ve been in the leadership position for almost a year, what are some of your goals for the organization?
GG: Our most immediate goal is [completing] … our physical expansion and raising the $14 million to pay for it. A more permanent goal is to spread the message about all the things PMMC does. Most people know we rescue, rehab and release seals and seal lions, but in addition, I want everyone to know about our advanced medical treatments, scientific research, veterinary teaching facility and our educational programs.
LBM: You’ve also been involved with nonprofits such as the Laguna Playhouse and Susan G. Komen Orange County. Why did you decide to get involved?
GG: At first, the Playhouse appealed to my fondness for live acting, but as I got more involved, I came to appreciate its value in helping people feel, think, laugh and maybe even cry. My support for Susan Komen as a Pink Tie Guy [ambassador and advocate] is very personal, having lost my sister to breast cancer.
LBM: Since you and your wife, Kathryn, have resided in Laguna for more than 20 years, what do you like about living and working in this town?
GG: Aside from its natural beauty, Laguna Beach is big enough to provide all that we enjoy, yet small enough to know people and get together with them when we are at events or just walking about town or along the beach.