INDIANAPOLIS - Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch and the Indiana Office of Tourism Development have awarded the Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership Award to Indianapolis Zoo Chief Executive Officer Michael Crowther. The award is the highest tourism honor given by the state.

Crowther joined the Indianapolis Zoo in 2002. In addition to growing attendance at the zoo, Crowther is responsible for the creation of the annual Indianapolis Prize, now considered one of the highest honors in animal conservation. 

"Michael is a tireless champion for our state and for tourism," said Mark Newman, executive director of IOTD. "He represents his community by serving on boards and committees and has also been instrumental in growing our global reputation with the creation and implementation of the Indianapolis Prize."

The award recipients are selected by an eight-member panel, which consists of representatives from Purdue University, the Indiana State Fair, Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, Grow INdiana Media Ventures (the parent of Inside INdiana Business), the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association, and state tourism leaders. 

The award is named after the late Will Koch, the longtime owner and president of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari.

"Indiana is the best place I’ve ever lived and worked. People here have an amazing combination of values, wisdom, hard work and thoughtfulness, and it’s a privilege to help share that with the rest of the nation and the world," Crowther said. "Will Koch embodied those attributes, and I’m truly honored to be associated with any recognition that bears Will’s name."

The award was presented Friday as part of Crouch's annual Hoosier Hospitality Awards at the Indiana State Fair. You can view the full list of award recipients by clicking here. You can also view the video honoring Crowther's win below: