Kevin Lynch Receives Distinguished R.B. Irwin Award  

Kevin Lynch shakes hands with Zach Klipa as Kevin accepts the 2024 R.B. Irwin Award.

After retiring April 30 from a 44-year career at National Industries for the Blind and its associated agencies, Kevin Lynch, president and CEO emeritus, was honored May 14 with the R.B. Irwin Award.   

The recognition took place during the General Session of the annual NIB/NAEPB Public Policy Forum. During the ceremony, Lynch was presented with a plaque by Zach Klipa, vice chairperson of NIB’s board. Paul Healy, board chairman, was not able to attend in person but shared some of his thoughts via video message. 

“The R.B. Irwin Award is the highest honor given by NIB to a professional in the NIB family who has devoted his career to creating and improving employment for people who are blind, or a volunteer who has demonstrated exceptional and longstanding service and commitment to the mission of NIB,” Healy said. “Speaking on behalf of the Board, we are delighted to bestow this award on Kevin Lynch.” 

The award is named for Dr. Robert B. Irwin, executive director of the American Foundation for the Blind in the 1930s and a member of the team who worked toward the formation of NIB. 

Klipa said he was filled with immense pride in presenting the award to Lynch. 

“Through this award, we honor his legacy as a servant leader and the indelible impact he has made on countless lives,” Klipa read from the plaque’s inscription, which was also engraved in braille.  

Lynch joined NIB in 1994 as vice president of operations. He spearheaded the launch of the e-commerce platform known today as and established the AbilityOne Base Supply Centers. NIB opened the first store in 1996 at Fort Bragg; today, there are more than 160 stores on military bases and federal installations across the nation. 

As NIB’s president and CEO from 2008 to 2024, Lynch successfully directed a network of nearly 100 associated nonprofit agencies that work in tandem with NIB and employ people who are blind. Lynch was the driving force behind the contract management support services program that has offered career opportunities for people who are blind to oversee contract administration; since 2010, these employees have identified $25.7 billion in taxpayer funding to be deobligated and returned to the U.S. Treasury. 

Under Lynch’s guidance NIB saw tremendous growth, with product offerings increasing to more than 7,000 items, 4,000 of them from SKILCRAFT. He oversaw the development and launch of NSITE, NIB’s national talent management enterprise, in 2021. NSITE provides a continuum of employment services that connect employers with talented, dedicated people who are blind or visually impaired. 

Also under Lynch’s leadership, NIB purchased land and built a new, state-of-the-art corporate headquarters in Alexandria, Va.  

“I really appreciate all the support over the years,” he said, equating NIB staff with family. “I am proud of all that our organization has achieved during my tenure. As NIB continues to evolve in support of our enduring mission – increasing service-based employment opportunities, expanding our professional development offerings, and leveraging new and emerging accessible technology – I know there is no limit to what this community can achieve.” 

After receiving the plaque from Klipa, Lynch said he was humbled by the attention that has come his way since he announced his retirement.   

“A lot of nice things have been said about me, but my accomplishments would not have been possible without great support,” he said, adding his thanks to the whole team at NIB and its almost 100 associated nonprofit agencies. “Many individuals made it easy for me to look good.” 

Before joining NIB, Lynch was executive director of Georgia Industries for the Blind, where he managed three manufacturing plants employing 165 people who are blind supporting more than $10 million in government contracts. Prior to that, he was director of manufacturing for the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired of Greater Rochester, New York, where he negotiated and executed multi-million-dollar contracts with the General Services Administration, Eastman Kodak, Xerox Corporation, and other commercial customers.