Christine Benninger (Chair)
President & CEO
Guide Dogs for the Blind, USA
Christine (Chris) joined Guide Dogs for the Blind in April of 2014. Chris brings a wealth of non-profit and for-profit experience to her role. Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) is the largest guide school in the United States and the second largest in the world. Chris manages a yearly budget of $54M, 300 employees and two campuses … one in San Rafael, California and a second campus in Boring, Oregon.
Under Chris’ leadership, Guide Dogs for the Blind has expanded its program offerings to include Orientation and Mobility training for individuals with insufficient skills to qualify for guide dog training, a companion dog program for visually-impaired children and advocacy in support of GDB’s visually-impaired communities. In addition, annual fundraising has tripled since 2014 and a new state-of-the-art Puppy Center has been built. Current organization-wide initiatives include Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as well as full accessibility throughout GDB and its communication channels.
Prior to joining GDB, she spent 17 years leading the Humane Society Silicon Valley. During her tenure there, she and her team’s progressive approach helped save the lives of tens of thousands of animals and greatly reduced pet overpopulation problems in Santa Clara County. Under her leadership, the organization was also able to raise $25.5 million to build The Animal Community Center — the first facility of its kind in the country.
Chris honed her business skills as an auditor with Arthur Andersen & Co. as well as in her 15 years with Hewlett Packard Corporation. At HP, Chris held managerial positions in the U.S. as well as in Europe. She holds an M.B.A. from Stanford University.
Association des Chiens Guides Grand Sud Ouest, France
Antoine has made a successful career working with the Airbus Group from 1995 to 2016.
At the end of his professional life, he joined, as a volunteer, the Association des Chiens Guides Grand Sud Ouest in 2016.
He started as a host family for guide dogs and was elected as a Director of the Association in 2019, representing all host families at the Board.
Canine Affairs Lead Professional
Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, UK
John Welsman has been a guide dog handler since 1983 and is now partnering with his seventh guide dog Benji. He has worked in the vision impairment sector since 1997, with roles as diverse as trustee for a national charity, assistive technology adviser and trainer, broadcast, and podcast producer, and since 2009 policy and standards roles for Guide Dogs UK.
A part of his current role in Guide Dogs UK is to produce audio content to support canine assisted services and has also supported IGDF with the creation of its own podcast. His goal in doing this is to enhance existing channels of communication in an accessible format which he hopes is engaging and entertaining.
John hopes that his personal and professional experience and knowledge of guide dog partnership and the wider assistance dog world will help IGDF in creating content, which is both informative to the sector, and potentially engaging to a wider non-guide dog focused audience.