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Thank You, Keith McGregor

Keith, wearing sunglasses, khaki shorts and a blue Leader Dog polo, sits smiling next to a woman in sunglasses and a flowery top. The woman has her mouth in a wide open smile as if laughing. A yellow lab in harness sits near their feet looking at them.

It’s not hard to find passionate, dedicated team members at Leader Dog, and Keith McGregor was a perfect example. After 41 years with Leader Dog, we said “happy retirement” to Keith.

Keith as a younger man talking with a woman outside on a sidewalk. They are wearing khaki shorts and polos. A yellow lab in harness sits at the woman's side.Keith started with Leader Dog back in 1981 as a dog care attendant. He apprenticed to be a guide dog mobility instructor (GDMI) and served in that capacity for 10 years. As a GDMI, Keith noticed a need for services for people who are deaf and blind, so Leader Dog supported his education at Mott Community College to learn American Sign Language (ASL). Soon after, Keith developed our groundbreaking Guide Dog program for people who are DeafBlind, the first dedicated training of its type in the U.S. Through his work with Leader Dog, Keith has traveled around the world to places like Spain, Japan, England and Scotland.

We thought the only way to share Keith’s time at Leader Dog is to tell it through the eyes of the team members who worked closely with him.

Here’s an Ode to Keith:

Black and white photo of Keith and Tina in white t-shirts with the Leader Dog logo in an old font style.

“Keith has been a tremendous support and mentor to me during my transition from training team supervisor to manager of training. His years of experience and outlook gave me different perspectives and ideas. I really appreciated getting to know him better and for all the support he provided me with during this time.

Shortly before Keith retired, he and I decided to do a ‘Retro Friday.’  Everyone thought he was giving me his old Leader Dog shirts in preparation for retirement. The shirt I am wearing in this photo actually belonged to Judy Campbell, who was manager of training here years ago.” – Tina Goedertier, manager of training

“I was fortunate enough to be on a team with Keith as he developed and implemented the DeafBlind program. It was amazing to see the work he put in to developing his teaching strategies, dog training and matching! Keith was also instrumental in teaching me how to properly educate the public when out training. Back then, dogs were on tie downs in the truck and people would often approach the trucks to see the dogs and learn about Leader Dog. Keith, along with GDMI Randy Horn, made sure I understood how critical it was to be on the trucks and in a position to manage the dogs all while educating and meeting the public.

Four mean in hard hats (including GDMIs Randy Horn and Keith McGregor) stand outside a brick building with Polk Residence Center in black lettering on itI have worked for Keith as a team member, he was my supervisor when he was director of training and I was assistant director of training. I will always remember working with him on location objectives and other big projects. I always thought we worked well together, and I have always admired his dedication and work ethic. He was a great mentor and role model! Thank you for all you have done for me over the many years we have been privileged to work together.” – Phil Griffin, team supervisor

“For me, Keith has been an example of the extreme importance of personal willingness to really, truly (sometimes painfully) question everything. Whether developing a solid training plan on the dog side of things or challenging the preconceived notions the world can have about what people who are DeafBlind can do, Keith is a fantastic example of how to never let ‘that’s how we’ve always done it’ be a valid excuse.  I am admittedly in total denial that he’s retired, and already have a substantial to-do list for him as he transitions to a contract position here at Leader Dog.” – Sarah Duyck, GDMI DeafBlind

“Keith has been a constant for me. While many employees have come and gone, Keith has been a consistent, knowledgeable, kindhearted and caring person I can count on to be honest with his feedback. He was always good at playing devil’s advocate and allowing me a new perspective and way to look at a particular problem. I have many fond memories of playing Euchre with him on our work trips to Florida and losing every time. I probably won’t miss that but will definitely miss everything else about him.” – Kate Roberts, team supervisor DeafBlind

“Originally as a part-time team member working in the residence, I remember brief interactions with Keith. I will never forget him showing me print on palm with one of the DeafBlind clients so that we could communicate. I remember Keith’s work at that time being groundbreaking and I greatly admired him.

Keith kneeling outdoors on grass next to a German shepherd in harness licking his faceWhen I first became a certified orientation and mobility instructor (COMS) at Leader Dog, Keith and I began to work more closely together. I became a manager in 2008 and we were part of a group of supervisors/managers in Program Services. The group was primarily made up of team supervisors, training/class coordinators (this was Keith’s role at that time), me and our director. We worked weekly to tackle departmental work. This generally included some rigorous debate. I was the newest member of the group and remember Keith always asking me a ton of tough questions. Initially, I thought these questions were meant to challenge. I always offered feedback and moved on. I quickly came to appreciate Keith’s tough questions because they helped me to learn and gain perspective on daily decisions we had to make. I began to incorporate this process and type of thinking into my daily work.

Our relationship then shifted and rather than Keith asking me the questions, Keith became my sounding board. I have greatly appreciated him playing devil’s advocate on several occasions or just listening to see if my outcomes and thought processes were well thought out and incorporated the organization’s values.

In recent years, I’ve greatly appreciated and enjoyed our non-scheduled time standing at each other’s doorways solving all the issues and collaborating to make things work more smoothly. I do miss seeing Keith at work daily. I am extremely grateful for all he’s taught me. I hope that I can pay at least half of it forward to future generations at Leader Dog.” – Erica Ihrke, manager of extended services

Keith, thank you for your dedicated service to Leader Dog and the huge impact you have had on the organization and the lives of our clients!

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