A woman with short blond hair, seated in a chair. She is wearing a dark suit jacket over a gray top and is smiling directly at the camera.
Laura Park-Leach, President & CEO St. Louis Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired

It was the morning of June 13, 2019 and as Laura Park-Leach and her husband, Mark Leach sat having breakfast at the Drury Inn before her interview for the position of President/CEO of SLSBVI, they saw that the St. Louis Blues had won the Stanley Cup Final the night before. Everyone and everything was abuzz. Mike McKinnis was Board Chair at that time and the first question he asked at her interview was “Did you see the Blues won the Stanley Cup?” Laura answered, “Yes! So exciting for St. Louis!” She was hired on the spot! Well, not really. But Laura said she was sure glad she saw the TV that morning.   Laura started her tenure as President & CEO of St. Louis Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired in July of 2019, and it is with a mixture of emotions that we share the news of the upcoming retirement of our esteemed leader effective August 2024. Laura’s span at the helm of our organization has been characterized by unwavering dedication, visionary leadership, and profound impact.   Laura said, “I wasn’t planning to apply anywhere. I had been at MAB (Metrolina Association for the Blind) for 30 years. I was recruited through VSA and went to the website out of curiosity. I felt an affinity for the history of events that had happened at Society as I had made some of the same choices for growth in Charlotte. Truthfully, I was amazed to have been selected. When Mark and I finally arrived in town and saw the Arch, it was a symbol for us of a new beginning. It has not only been wonderful to lead Society but also to explore the city. I feel like I have been a non-stop tourist for 5 years and I haven’t seen it all yet!”   For more than 40 years in numerous states, Laura dedicated herself to supporting individuals who are blind or visually impaired, first as an Orientation and Mobility Specialist and later in nonprofit leadership roles. Since joining the Society in July 2019, Laura has led transformative initiatives that have significantly enhanced our services and expanded our reach.   Under her guidance, we have witnessed the expansion of the Drews Low Vision Clinic, which now has two exam lanes, dedicated lighting, and CCTV rooms, and has doubled the size of the Sight Solutions Shop. Society has also established an Assistive Technology Center for demonstrating and teaching computers, phones, wearable technology and more. During her tenure, Society has extended services to encompass all of Jefferson and St. Charles counties and western IL through the utilization of Occupational Therapy Assistants. The agency’s focused marketing has increased services to minorities from 19% in 2019 to 26% in 2024. “The thing I wanted most to accomplish while I was here was to make sure the underserved were served,” said Laura. “So I am pleased with the expansion in serving all of St. Charles and Jefferson County and to have grown from 19% minorities to 26%.”   Society Board of Directors Chair, Betsy Kauffman shared that “Laura’s effective and compassionate leadership allowed the Society to navigate through the pandemic while becoming stronger than ever. Her passion for assisting those with low vision and her creativity in finding solutions to improve the quality of life for the clients of St. Louis Society for the Blind will be greatly missed. It has been a privilege to serve on the Board of Directors under her leadership.”   When asked what the Society means to her personally and how she feels about leaving, she said, “It’s the greatest honor of my life to have been given this level of responsibility and opportunity to guide an organization that has such a long history. I wish I had 20 more years.”   The Society Board of Directors has enlisted the services of a distinguished search firm, presently conducting a nationwide quest to identify the next President who will steadfastly uphold the agency’s mission. We extend our deepest appreciation to Laura for her outstanding leadership and convey our warmest wishes as she ventures into this new phase of her life.   What’s next for Laura Park-Leach? The best answer she can come up with is that she is going to explore “…another version of myself. I have used my creativity, I hope, for the betterment of people with vision loss. Now I will use my creativity to see where life takes me. As Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr would say, ‘It’s an open field.’”