Ever since Thomas Panek learned at age 20 that he would lose his eyesight, he vowed that his disability would not prevent him from living a full life. “I wanted to do everything that sighted people do, and more,” he says. He has not let himself down.
Thomas is President and CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, which provides guide dogs to people with vision loss. He is passionate about connecting exceptional dogs with individuals and families for greater independence.
In addition to serving as President and CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, he has completed a dozen marathons since he lost his sight.
Gus, with whom Thomas went through training when he joined Guiding Eyes, is one of two dogs that the organization has trained to run with their handlers.
Prior to joining Guiding Eyes, Panek was the Vice President of Relationship Management at National Industries for the Blind in Washington, DC, where he was responsible for providing leadership for the largest employment program for the blind, assisting wounded warriors with vision loss.
Panek also served as President and Chief Operating Officer 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.
He earned bachelor and master’s degrees from American University in Washington, DC, School of International Service, with a focus on International Law.
Panek lives in New York with his spouse, Melissa, and their four children. He is accompanied by his Guiding Eyes dog, a friendly yellow Lab named “Gus”.