YORKTOWN, N.Y. -- Thomas A. Panek is taking the reins as the new president and CEO of Yorktown-based Guiding Eyes For The Blind.
Panek, who is legally blind, was 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 CEO of the World Trade Center in Chicago and as Senior International Trade Specialist for the United States Foreign Commercial Service.
"Guiding Eyes has an extraordinary reputation," Panek, who has had a guide dog for 20 years, said. "I am very excited to be here. The graduates of Guiding Eyes are our ambassadors, they share their experiences with one another."
Panek said he will work on day-to-day operations of Guiding Eyes and on strategic planning.
"We want to make sure we are meeting the needs of the blind community," Panek said. "We are looking at our innovative programs and seeing where the organization is."
Providing a guide dog to a blind person gives them personal independence and freedom Panek said. Being blind, Panek said it means a lot to be president and CEO of an organization like Guiding Eyes.
"I am honored to represent the blindness community," Panek said. "I can bring a perspective to this leadership role. It’s important for us to recognize that technological advances are transforming the world for people who are blind and visually impaired."
Panek said Guiding Eyes has a sterling reputation around the world.
"Guiding Eyes treats its graduates with respect and dignity," Panek said. "It's all about being able to achieve independence and being able to go to school or get to the environment. Dogs provide all of that."
A guide dog can help a blind person achieve their goals in life, which Panek knows from first-hand experience.
"For 20 years, my dogs have guided me through some of my greatest achievements - graduating from university, meeting my wife, beginning and developing my career and starting a family," Panek said.