Thomas Panek is the president and chief executive officer of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a New York-based nonprofit organization that provides exceptional guide dogs to individuals with vision loss. Under Panek’s leadership since 2014, Guiding Eyes continues to be an international leader and pioneer in the service animal field. Panek, who lost his vision in his 20s, is himself a guide dog user, and is currently partnered with Guiding Eyes guide dog Gus, a yellow Labrador.
Since joining Guiding Eyes, Panek has driven the organization’s year-over-year strategic growth in serving the blind community; Guiding Eyes continues to graduate more guide dog users each year while maintaining its signature highly-personalized training programs. Additionally, the nonprofit is a thought leader in guide dog breeding, genetics and training, sharing data and best practices worldwide.
In 2015, Panek led the development of the first-of-its-kind “Running Guides” program, which trains dogs to guide safely at running pace. Panek’s guide dog Gus is among the first “Running Guides” and has guided him in several official road races as well as countless training runs.
Prior to joining Guiding Eyes, Panek was vice president of relationship management at National Industries for the Blind in Washington, D.C., where he was responsible for providing leadership for the largest employment program for the blind, with a focus on supporting wounded warriors’ transition to careers in civilian life. He also served as president and COO of the World Trade Center, Chicago. He began his executive career as Senior International Trade Specialist for the United States Foreign Commercial Service, where he traveled the world with his guide dog – expanding business opportunities for U.S. exporters.
Panek graduated from American University School of International Service, with a focus on International Law. He lives in New York with his wife Melissa, their four children, his guide dog Gus, and the family’s pet, a black Labrador named Onyx.