Guiding Eyes for the Blind, known around the globe as one of the foremost guide dog schools, has announced that William D. Badger, the organization’s President and Chief Executive Officer, will retire after a twenty-year tenure. A new President and CEO, Thomas A. Panek, will join Guiding Eyes on February 18, 2014. Badger will begin his retirement, but has pledged to continue as an adviser to support a smooth transition of leadership.
“Bill Badger has created a solid foundation for Guiding Eyes in his time here, leading our organization to be recognized worldwide for our superbly bred dogs, exceptional training and personalized service to blind and visually impaired clients as well as families with children with autism,” said Wendy Aglietti, Guiding Eyes’ Board Chair. “We look forward to a new chapter for Guiding Eyes and are thrilled and excited about Thomas joining our team. We anticipate a bright future with him as our leader.”
Under Badger’s leadership, Guiding Eyes for the Blind has become a leading internationally accredited guide dog school. In addition to increasing the school’s presence both in the United States and abroad, Badger and his team placed great emphasis on strengthening Guiding Eyes’ financial position by continuously building awareness and donor support. He has been a champion for the expansion of important client services, accommodating special needs clients with disabilities in addition to visual impairment as well as supporting families of children with autism through Guiding Eyes’ Heeling Autism program.
“I am passionate about our organization’s mission,” shares Badger. “I was first motivated to join Guiding Eyes by the late Honorable Richard Conway Casey, a New York federal district court judge and a remarkable Guiding Eyes dog user. Over the twenty years I have been President and CEO, the purpose of our work and the extraordinary people I have been fortunate to get to know and to work with always fills me with inspiration.”
“It is truly an honor to have this opportunity to lead Guiding Eyes”, says Panek. “I am inspired by the deep commitment of the board, staff, volunteer community and donors. It’s because of their dedication that blind and visually impaired people like me are able to travel safely.”
Prior to accepting his new position at Guiding Eyes, Panek was the Vice President of Relationship Management at National Industries for the Blind in Virginia. He was responsible for providing leadership, management and direction to the organization while diversifying and expanding employment opportunities for people who are blind. Panek also previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer of the World Trade Center in Chicago and as Senior International Trade Specialist for the United States Foreign Commercial Service.
Panek has been involved with a variety of nonprofit organizations and business-focused boards including the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Executives’ Club of Chicago and the World Institute on Disability. Panek received his B.A. in International Studies and M.A. in International Affairs from the School of International Service at the American University in Washington, D.C. He is relocating from Virginia with his spouse Melissa and their four children. All love dogs and are looking forward to joining the Guiding Eyes team.