SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – Cynthia Watson, a 20-year veteran advocate for empowering people who are blind, has been named President & CEO of SA Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, says Marco P. Aldaz, San Antonio Lighthouse Board Chairman.
Watson, who is blind herself, was the top finalist in a national search that drew more than 200 candidates. She holds an MBA from the University of Houston at Clear Lake, and has a national profile as one of only a handful of non-sighted CEO’s who head major non-profits.
“The San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired is the leading organization in empowering people who are blind in Texas,” says Watson. “I am honored and excited to have been selected to lead the organization. It’s incredible to have lived the mission and now get to further it in the future.”
She becomes only the fifth CEO in the 88-year history of the iconic San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, explains Mike Gilliam, who is retiring as CEO after 16 years at the helm of one of Texas’ largest military apparel manufacturing operations.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to Mike,” explains Chairman Aldaz. “He literally took the wheel of a non-profit on the verge of bankruptcy and steered it into one of the most successful Lighthouse operations in the country during his tenure.”
Currently the SA Lighthouse has annual revenues of $120 Million that encompasses a 140,000 square-feet plant, 15 military supplies stores across Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma and employs nearly 500 people, half of whom are blind.
Watson, who officially starts August 9th, arrives in San Antonio from the Seattle Lighthouse, where she was named CEO in 2019, having joined originally in 2018 as Senior Vice President before being promoted.
The San Antonio and Seattle Lighthouses are comparable in size but not in scope, explains Gilliam. The west coast operation is focused on a variety of manufacturing and service businesses, employing people who are blind; while San Antonio is one of the largest providers of rehabilitation services for the blind in the country.
“We function as the “One-Stop Shop” for the blind in Bexar County, says Gilliam.
This includes operating a Blind Children’s Education Program serving birth through 14 years of age. Offering a comprehensive array of senior services in the city and surrounding areas for the blind/visually impaired over the age of 50, says Gilliam, “We offer every service for every age for every vision condition.”